Rhododendrons at the University of British Columbia
J. W. Neill, Associate Director, Botanical Garden
Fig. 27. Part of the species collection planted under the native cedars on the Campus
of the University of British Columbia.
E. F. Marten photo
The collection of rhododendrons at the University of British Columbia dates back only eight years, yet within that space of time, the number of plants has increased from a mere handful of hybrids to approximately 20,000 plants comprised of nearly 300 species and 250 hybrids.
Prior to 1952 there were less than fifty rhododendrons on the entire campus. In the fall of that year, the Botanical Garden, through the arrangements of Dr. Taylor and the writer, received a gift of four hundred rhododendrons from Mr. and Mrs. Greig of Royston on Vancouver Island. This magnificent donation of a large assortment of species became the nucleus of the collection and a decision was made to place special emphasis on the rhododendron as a Botanical Garden and campus feature, In 1954 the Greig's donated an additional 400 plants.
In the following two years, seed of a great many species was requested through the seed exchange system from Botanical Gardens, mainly those in Europe. Thousands of seedlings were raised and as they grew, the problem of space in which to raise them became critical. Subsequently, a more selective approach was taken to obtain species of greater landscape value and hardiness. As each spring brings more plants into first bloom, it becomes obvious that a great deal of work will be required to sort the true species from those of hybrid origin. Special attention will be paid, too, to an evaluation oŁ the species hardiness and general usefulness in Southwestern British Columbia.
Paralleling the growth of the species collection has been that of the hybrids. In the last three years approximately 10,000 plants have been propagated from the hybrid stock plants, nearly half of them being evergreen azaleas.
The first plants, made up largely of the donated plants are at the north end of the campus near the Graham Gates entrance. Extensive use also has been made of the species and evergreen azaleas around the newer buildings on the north slope of the campus. It is planned to have rhododendrons as the feature plant of the landscaped areas bordering on Marine Drive from the Graham Gates entrance to the southern extremity of the campus at Totem park, a distance of approximately one mile.
Species plantings, in the open park-like area (Fig. 27) of the new student residences, are being laid out in a series sequence this winter; hybrids are being used in the more intimate planting areas around the campus as a Botanical Garden-a teaching aid for students, a testing ground for new introductions and an attraction to the public. In this way, too, we are helping to popularize the rhododendron.