The Rhododendron Species Foundation
A Progress Report
P. H. Brydon
Information on the concept and progress of the Rhododendron Species Foundation has appeared in past issues of the Quarterly ARS Bulletin Quarterly Vol. 19 #1, Vol. 19 #3, Vol. 22 #3, Vol. 23 #1, Vol. 23 #2 and more recently an appeal for support was mailed to all members of the American Rhododendron Society. To those who respond so generously, we are indeed grateful. However, a project of this kind which will be of interest and value to all who grow rhododendrons, needs the continuing support of all A.R.S. members.
Briefly, here are the reasons for the establishment of the Rhododendron Species Foundation.
1. To collect superior forms of rhododendron species.
2. To maintain the collection under the best possible conditions where there is room for the plants to develop into mature specimens.
3. To make superior forms available to all who are interested in the genus for the following reasons:
a. Creation of newer and better hybrids.
b. For use as potential sources of hardiness, disease resistance, etc.
c. For use as ornamentals in the garden.
We regret to report that, because the Foundation had been unable to raise the sums it had anticipated, Dr. Milton Walker found it necessary to dispose of his beautiful garden at Pleasant Hill, Oregon and this spring, at the request of the Directors of the Foundation, the plants were moved to the writer's garden near Salem, Oregon. Almost constant rains delayed transplanting until late April and, were it not for the yeoman labors of the Eugene Chapter members, this task could not have been completed before the hot weather which began in June. Some two thousand plants were dug and lined out temporarily in nursery beds over which sprinkler systems had been installed. Since then, a 60' by 60' lath house has been built and partially filled. At present, a 30' by 1T propagating house is under construction. The collection comprises some 515 accessions with 380 in Salem and an additional 135 yet to come from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, making a total of 384 species, subspecies, and selected clones.
The new site is on a wooded slope facing east and situated some 5 miles west of Salem. Shade and protection is afforded by native stands of Garry Oak (Quercus garryana), Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Douglas Fir (Pseudostuga menziesii), with occasional specimens of Oregon Maple (Acer macrophyllum) and some Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) interspersed with Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). About four acres of wooded garden are available for eventual display. The topography of the land and variance in amounts of shade offer many different exposures for the species, some of which demand full sun, and others dense shade. The native soil type is Aiken or, as the locals call it, "red hill dirt". It is friable, deep. well drained and on the acid side. Air drainage is excellent and the 30 acre cherry orchard, which is part of the property, has never been known to be affected by late spring frosts. Springs provide irrigation water for the garden and the overflow is impounded in a reservoir with a capacity of 500,000 gallons.
Method of Distribution
Since one of the purposes of the Foundation is to make superior forms available to enthusiasts, the first concern is to get propagations from the various species into their hands. After much deliberation, the Directors voted unanimously to distribute surplus plants via the nursery industry. Nurserymen who wish to share in the distribution are invited to become contributors at a minimum yearly sum of $50.00. Periodic lists will be made available to them and plants will be supplied at cost of production. To each plant will be attached an R. S. F. label as a guarantee of its authenticity. Subsequent propagations by the nurserymen from R. S. F. plants will be required to have attached R. S. F. labels and cost of the labels will be 50¢ each.
As stated in the recent appeal sent to all members of the A.R.S. "The money spent so far has been donated by certain members of the Board and by a few other interested individuals. These few, several of whom have also contributed much in time and effort, have about reached the limit of their ability to contribute and so it is necessary to make this appeal for support to the thousands of other rhododendron enthusiasts whose gardens will eventually benefit, if they so desire, from the work of the Foundation". Funds derived from the sale of surplus stock to the nursery industry would barely cover the cost of production and would add very little to funds for maintaining the collection. Therefore, we appeal to all who are interested in the genus to support this important project by sending your contribution, large or small, to the Treasurer, Mr. Ed Siegmund.