International Rhododendron Conference Caps A.R.S. Activities
With the International Rhododendron Conference less than a month away, many of the long-standing members of the American Rhododendron Society have been looking back over the relatively short history of the Society with some satisfaction. In the world of plant societies, the American Rhododendron Society is a youngster.
The organizational meeting of the A.R.S. was held on July 7, 1944 in Portland. John Henny became the first president, George Grace, Secretary and E. R. Peterson, Treasurer. All of these men had outstanding collections of rhododendrons. Within six months the Society was incorporated as a nonprofit organization and before its first birthday held an open air rhododendron show in the Park Blocks in Portland. From this small group the membership has grown to over 1700 including members from eleven foreign countries.
Enthusiasm for collecting rhododendrons develops quickly and soon all but the most fortunate reach a point where garden space cannot possibly accommodate all the rhododendrons desired. When enough members reach this point, the solution seems evident and combined energies move toward establishing a Display Garden or Test Garden, so that the best of the myriad of hybrids and even the largest of the species can be enjoyed by all.
The first to be developed and the most comprehensive of these is the National Test Garden at Portland which was begun in 1950, but the Eugene Display Garden is only a few months younger. The Test Garden on the Biltmore Estate, Ashville, N.C., and the Display Gardens at Tacoma Washington, Union County, N.J., and Gladsgay Gardens, Virginia, each according to its own needs and vigor, are developing gardens which are of permanent value to their communities. Now this enthusiasm has turned toward the organization of the International Rhododendron Conference which will gather together the great authorities of the Rhododendron world and the enthusiastic growers and collectors from this and other countries. The exchange of ideas and experiences at a Conference such as this benefits the authority as well as the beginner.
The opportunity to attend an International Rhododendron Conference without going abroad will not likely be available soon again. The last such Conference was held in England in 1949, and this is, of course, the first ever held in the United States. Authorities from England, Scotland, Holland, Germany and New Zealand will speak, as well Americans, all men of achievement and experience in their field, from all sections of our country. An afternoon tour of the National Test Garden and the Portland Show will be made on Saturday, May 13. The tours which are available the last day of the Conference will include local gardens and some of the largest collections of rhododendrons in the northwest.
It is especially hoped that Charter members and those of long-standing will be able to gather in Portland during the International Conference to enjoy together the accomplishments of their Society.