Southeastern Chapter A.R.S. Show
Marjorie H. Lewis
The Southeastern Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society held its first competitive show May 16 and 17 in the John Cecil Club Room of Biltmore Dairy Farms, Asheville, N.C. This was undertaken with some qualms as to whether the chapter had been in existence long enough to have grown enough specimens of worth.
The mountains of Western North Carolina offer perhaps the most nearly ideal conditions for the culture of rhododendrons of any place in the world. The forests abound in magnificent native species, the R. maximum, R. minus, R. catawbiense and R. carolinianum as well as many species and natural hybrids of azaleas which grow luxuriantly to great height and bloom profusely.
In spite of this fact, or perhaps because of this wealth of natural beauty, the people of the area in general have never known much about or tried to grow the exotic hybrids.
It was only five years ago that the enthusiastic interest of two amateur gardeners, Joe Brooks of Asheville and Dr. Ernest Yelton of Rutherfordton, in the potentialities of hybrids in this area, became contagious and resulted in the formation of this chapter. With current membership of around 75 we make up in interest what we lack in age and experience. The success of last year's non-competitive show encouraged us to try our wings. The unfavorable season. which was too warm too early, and too cold too late and very wet caused pre-show jitters. The plants. however, did their best to compensate and there were a surprising number of fine exhibits, 176 plus 19 non-competitive with 23 exhibits, and the show room was a beautiful sight. There were gasps of surprise and pleasure from those entering the room and warm praise from those leaving.
Joe Brooks, an incomparable host, was kept busy answering questions as to the culture of rhododendrons, identification of samples, etc., etc. Though publicity had been scant and modest 320 visitors signed our guest book and many came back again, bringing friends and relatives. It was gratifying to note the increasing interest and enjoyment of our visitor.
Outstanding exhibits that drew special attention from visitors were: (1) Dr. W. N. Fortescue's brilliant display near the entrance of strikingly beautiful balled and burlaped plants. This was our only commercial exhibit. (2) The many fine varieties in the deep red classification. (3) The very beautiful Exbury and Knaphill showings. Indeed many people, though the judges. for technical reasons perhaps, did not honor it with a blue ribbon, considered an un-named Exbury seedling shown by Mrs. John B. Dennis to be the most beautiful blossom in the show. The delicate blend of pastels shading to yellow and the lush perfection of form in flower and truss defy description. The Knaphill hybrids vied with the Exbury in handsome form and exquisite texture and color. (4) A white sport of azalea vaseyi by W. F. Lewis of Cashiers, (5) and of course the many individual blue ribbon exhibits. A beautiful collection of the best and latest books on rhododendron and azaleas was displayed by Dr. Fred J. Nisbet, director of Biltmore Estates Gardens. This created much interest among the visitors.
Dr. Nisbet was also the donor of the very lovely sterling silver shell as a grand sweepstakes prize for the greatest total number of points won. He justly and promptly walked off with this himself for his exhibits from Biltmore Gardens. A beautiful. small pewter bowl donated by Biltmore Dairies was won by W. N. Garren. Extension horticulturist for South Carolina, Clemson College.
The hard-working show committee are to be congratulated on achieving a successful show and thereby increasing the interest in the culture of rhododendrons.
Show committee: Mr. and Mrs. Traynham Houston, chairman; Mr. L. R. Brooks, Information; Mr. and Mrs. W. F. P. Cox, recorder; Mr. and Mrs. Francis Field, Recorder; Mr. E. Alfred Kremer, Publicity; Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Lewis, Judges; Mr. Everett D. Mitchell, Properties; Dr. Lewis Rathbun, Slides; Mrs. Charles Dexter Owen