Scottish National Trust Show at the New York Botanical Garden
Carlton B. Lees
(See Cover Picture)
The Rhododendron Event at The New York Botanical Garden came about through cooperation between the Garden, The Scottish National Trust, Scottish-American Heritage, Inc. and the New York Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. The original concept was to produce an exhibition of cut rhododendron specimens from Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran, Scotland, but through the cooperation of the organizations involved and many individuals it quickly grew into an event which was lively, bright and horticulturally and botanically informative.
On the afternoon of April 2nd, 1975, Eric Robson, Gardens Advisor for the Scottish National Trust, and John Basford, Head Gardener at Brodick Castle, arrived at Kennedy Airport with 12 large boxes of 300 cut rhododendron specimens. They were met by a member of the Botanical Garden staff and quickly whisked to the Bronx where in the Conservatory the boxes were opened, the specimens examined and placed in water after a new cut had been made at the base of each stem. The trusses had made the journey from Brodick boxed in moist tissue, and each had a small wad of cotton ("cotton-wool" to our Scottish friends) attached to the cut stem end. The transformation from an expression of worry to great relief gradually turned John Basford's face into a smile as he opened box after box and found flowers which appeared fresh and in such excellent condition that they seemed to have never left home. For members of the Garden staff working with him each specimen was greeted with new excitement.
The next day the specimens were set up in one of the Conservatory houses among camellias, eucalyptus, mimosas, ligustrum, citrus trees and a variety of other evergreens. A system of bollards made from pipe standing vertically and painted flat black was used so that each cut specimen could be viewed at a convenient height and yet be at home in the garden-like environment of the old Conservatory. Ordinary milk bottles were concealed within the black pipes to hold the necessary water.
Months before the Scottish rhododendrons left the Isle of Arran, however, members of the New York Rhododendron Society lifted plants from their gardens on Long Island and carried them to Planting Fields. From there a Botanical Garden van carried the plants to the Bronx where they were forced into bloom in the Garden's propagating greenhouses, along with rhododendrons from the Botanical Garden's collection. In full bloom these plants were then moved to the Conservatory where a garden was created in the large cruciform house, centered by a panel of smoothly mown turf. All rhododendrons, plants and cut specimens, were conspicuously labeled for easy identification.
Festivities got under way Thursday evening, April 3rd, with tea in the Scottish manner. About 150 guests enjoyed shortbreads, Dundee cake, fairy cakes, tiny sandwiches and other delicious Scottish goodies. A bagpiper and eight Scottish dancers added to the festivity. One gentleman guest remarked with dreamy eyes "I love bagpipes and I love rhododendrons, but I never thought I could have bagpipes and rhododendrons together
"The second day of the event was Scottish-American Heritage Day with 45 members of that organization gathered to view the rhododendrons, followed by a luncheon and talks by Mr. Robson and Mr. Basford.
On Saturday a Rhododendron Seminar, attended by 80 people, opened with greetings from Dr. Howard S. Irwin, President of The New York Botanical Garden. Those appearing on the program were Richard Murcott, H. Lincoln Foster and Franklin H. West. An exhibition of books and prints of rhododendrons was staged for the event by the Botanical Garden Library staff, which also compiled and made available a special bibliography on the subject. (Available by mail from The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, N.Y. 10458 at a cost of $3.00.) Throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday the Conservatory exhibition was open to the public. The bagpiper and dancers continued to perform and the rhododendron blooms and plants held up remarkably well - some of the cut specimens lasting in good bloom well into the early part of the following week. No doubt the Conservatory atmosphere, cool and humid, contributed greatly to the survival of the cut trusses, which in an ordinary exhibition hall probably would not have fared nearly as well.
Members of the New York Chapter of ARS gathered pollen for the pollen bank from some 38 varieties.
The Rhododendron Event was coordinated by Carlton B. Lees, Vice President of The New York Botanical Garden; David McAlpin served on the committee for the Scottish-American Heritage, Inc., which underwrote expenses for the Scottish portion of the event, and Dennis Stewart organized the plant exhibition for the New York Chapter of ARS.