New Display Garden At Birmingham, Alabama
Fig. 30. In the Celebrity Corner, Birmingham, Alabama, are the people involved in
the new Display garden, left to right: Mr. Melbourne W. Wallace, Horticulturist and
Director of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Mr. Don Hawkins, Park and
Recreation Board Chairman, Mrs. Clara B. Curry, Chairman of Southern
Chapter Membership Committee (E. of Mississippi), and Mr. Robert S. Smilie,
Director, Southern Chapter of A.R.S.
The establishment of an American Rhododendron Society Display Garden within the Birmingham City Botanical Garden marks a long step in the direction of more general use of Rhododendrons in southern gardens. Although azaleas (which comprise one Series of the Genus Rhododendron) have long been grown extensively in many southern areas the non-azalea rhododendrons have seldom been tried and then not always successfully.
The information needed to insure success would seem to be lists of varieties especially suited to southern conditions and knowledge of special cultural requirements in the South. One of the best places to secure this information, and to make it available to the public, is an Arboretum or Botanical Garden in or near a southern city.
Some two or three years ago Mr. Arthur Coyle of Houston, Texas, began to build up interest in a Southern Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. He was quite successful and now the Southern Chapter has a large membership in the Gulf Coast, and some adjacent states.
Heading the membership drive for the Southern Chapter in the Birmingham area was Mrs. Clara B. Curry, fashion buyer for Parisian stores. Mrs. Curry, with characteristic energy, brought in the largest number of new members and in the process won a prize of $100.00 worth of rhododendron plants. She decided to present them to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and was able to convince the powers that be that an area should be set aside in the Gardens specifically for rhododendrons. In this she had the cooperation of Bob Smiley, a Director of the Southern Chapter, Mr. Don Hawkins, Park and Recreation Board Chairman, and Mr. Melbourne W. Wallace, Horticulturist and Director of the Botanical Gardens. As a result two acres have been selected and set aside for this group of plants. Here varieties will be tested for their adaptability to southern growing conditions and cultural methods will be studied.
The plants were presented to Councilman Don Hawkins who in turn presented them to Mr. Wallace. During his acceptance speech Mr. Wallace announced the plans for the rhododendron and azalea garden. The presentation was made at a breakfast attended by 300 women and broadcast over station WBRC, reaching a listening audience of 80,000. During the broadcast Bob Smiley was interviewed concerning rhododendron culture and Mrs. Curry, during her interview, made a plea for more Rhododendron Society members. Large rhododendron plants in redwood tubs were on the platform at the time of the presentation.
Mrs. Curry has been publicizing rhododendrons at other events as at a fashion show for the Shades Valley Council of Garden Clubs, some 85 clubs with attendance of about 400 members.