The Rhododendron Society of Canada
W. J. Brender à Brandes, Burlington, Ontario
The history of rhododendron culture in Eastern Canada is quite different from the development in the United States. Many decades ago rhododendrons gained in popularity which soon faded as failures were numerous due to lack of knowledge on hardiness, soil requirements and suitable locations. Fortunately, a few professional horticulturists did not give up.
In Ontario, Miss Louise Heringa worked at the University of Guelph, and Mr. Leslie Hancock did breeding and testing work at his nursery. After the war, Dr. E. F. Palmer of the Research Station at Vineland established, from private means, a trust fund for rhododendron research. Some work was also done under the severe weather conditions at Ottawa by the Plant Research Institute of the Canada Department of Agriculture. More recently, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton planted a collection. Nova Scotia has a very old planting at the Research Station in Kentville. Furthermore, there have been a few successful private growers throughout Eastern Canada, including Quebec.
Many immigrants who came to Canada during the past 25 years started to grow rhododendrons because they had done so in Europe. Most growers relied on their own experience and whatever literature was available to them. Leslie Hancock often supplied them with plants and advice. However, many were unfamiliar with the available information and research results.
Such was the situation in Eastern Canada in 1971 when the need was felt to bring all these scattered, but enthusiastic people together into one organization, so that experience and information could be exchanged through meetings, the publication of bulletins and flower shows. This led to the formation of The Rhododendron Society of Canada, with an initial membership of 30, which has increased to almost 200 members in one and a half years. Much assistance was received from radio and the press, with the result that persons who had been entirely without contacts and others who believed that rhododendrons could not be grown in Canada are now active members.
Our bulletin, which is published three times a year, differs from the bulletin of the A.R.S. as, for the time being at least, it gives more elementary articles on hardiness, winter protection, soil, exposure, propagation and pest control. This is the type of information needed most by our members at this time.
So far, we have discussed only the situation in Eastern Canada, which covers the area between Lake Superior and the Atlantic Coast. At the Pacific Coast, in British Columbia, with its climate and soil similar to those of Washington and Oregon, rhododendrons have been grown widely for many years. Although a few growers from this area have become members of our Society, most of them belong to the Vancouver chapter of the A.R.S. However, this chapter itself, became a group member of the Canadian Society.
There is still much work to be done in Canada, but in view of the enthusiasm and willingness of members to share in the work, we are convinced that much can be accomplished.