Presidential Address at the 33rd Annual Meeting
Eugene, Oregon, May 12-15, 1977
August E. Kehr
In recognition of the Centennial Year, at the annual meeting in Valley Forge I gave a brief history of rhododendrons in this country and elsewhere in the world. It was pointed out that the history of rhododendrons in America was brief - 100 years at the most and more realistically 35 to 40 years. Our Society was only 25 years old in 1969.
Although a great Society such as ours may take just pride in its history, it is a prudent Society that concerns itself with the present, and projects its plans toward the future. Tonight in my report to you, I have two objectives: First, to review the highlights of the current year's activities and accomplishments of the Society, and secondly, and more importantly, take a very brief look toward the future of the American Rhododendron Society.
In the first objective, I wish to report that your Board of Directors has held three meetings during the past year - in Washington in October, in Portland in February (and what a wonderful meeting that was thanks to Janet Binford), and this week in Springfield.
The voting members of the Board are the Presidents of each Chapter (or his designated representative), each of the national officers, and the 12 Directors elected by the membership for 3year terms. The new directors elected for the term expiring in 1980 are: Alfred Martin, Jock Brydon, Marge Farwell, and Henry Schannen.
In some cases the newly elected board members won by very narrow margins, and I should like to compliment the new members and those who were just barely edged out for receiving the recognition and confidence of the membership bestowed upon them in recognition of their leadership.
The 16 standing committees conduct a major portion of the work of the Society. It is fitting therefore to recognize each of these committees and their contributions in 1977.
The Annual Meeting Committee with Dr. John P. Evans of California and Dennis Stewart of New York has, with the concurrence of the Board of Directors and the local chapters involved, arranged for annual meetings for the next seven years as follows:
1978 - New York 1979 - Vancouver 1980 - Massachusetts 1981 - San Francisco 1982 - Potomac Valley, Washington, DC 1983 - Portland 1984 - Mountain, Georgia
Our annual meetings have become larger and large, requiring more planning and lead time than in the early days of our Society. At the last Board meeting, a policy was approved to hold an International Rhododendron Show as part of the Annual Meeting. The purpose of such an international show is to encourage exhibition by members from all chapters, including all members from overseas.
Perhaps one of the most difficult and complex assignments is that given to the Ratings Committee, under the leadership of George W. Clarke of Portland and George W. Ring of Potomac Valley.
This committee is assembling a complete new American list of plants coded as to flower and plant quality, parentage, size, hardiness, flower color, and hybridizer. This is a monumental task. The Committee is working hard to complete this compilation in the near future, and will work with the Publications Committee to have it published.
The Plant Awards Committee, composed of Dr. Ned Brockenbrough, Seattle, and Mrs. Dorothy Schlaikjer of New York, has with Board concurrence, developed clear cut guidelines for plant awards. This most recent action specifies clearly that awards are to be given to newly developed or newly selected clones of species and hybrids in contrast to those that are, or were, readily available in the nursery trade. Dr. Brockenbrough has published guidelines for the Awards Program in the April issue of the Bulletin. At this point, I am especially glad that the membership has recognized the leadership capabilities of Ned Brockenbrough; because Ned, in another few minutes you will have the weighty mantle of the presidency of this Society fall on your shoulders with a loud bang, and I shall again be a care-free "rhodoholic".
Perhaps the real leadership of our Society rests with two of the finest ladies who ever grew rhododendrons. One of these is our Editor, Mrs. Molly Grothaus. Everyone of us can take just pride in this world-renowned publication with its uniquely high quality of content and superb color illustrations. There can be no doubt that the Bulletin is the most cohesive force of the American Rhododendron Society, and highly effective in recruiting new membership, as well as retaining the old.
In the last four years, there has been an average increase of 3 percent per year in the demand for the Bulletin. Interestingly in this same period, the demand overseas has increased almost 10 times this amount, or 33 percent. A total of 194 copies is now being mailed overseas as follows:
Denmark 53 Japan 39 Australia 29 Great Britain 27 New Zealand 16 Germany 7 Other Countries 23
At present, 3,800 copies of each issue are published.
I am confident that the entire membership of the American Rhododendron Society wishes to offer their deepest thanks to Molly for her outstanding journalistic contributions.
Dr. John Evans of California has chaired the Honors Committee for the past year and a half. Other members of the Committee are: Warren Berg, Donald Kellam, Jr., Henry Schannen, and Dave Leach. We duly recognize Dr. Evans and his Committee for the large amount of letter writing in compiling Chapter nominations for awards and the time and effort required in preparation of the necessary citations.
Another of the very difficult Committee assignments is that of the Publications Committee under the leadership of Dr. J. Harold Clarke, ably assisted by Dave Leach, Esther Berry, Franklin West, Molly Grothaus, and Fred Galle. You can be assured that this Committee shares with all members of the Society the need for more publications as a service to our membership. To meet some of these needs, the Publications Committee has revised and republished the A.R.S. booklet, "Fundamentals of Rhododendron and Azalea Culture." In addition, the Committee will soon publish 6,000 copies of a revised membership list.
The first book on Rhododendron species is in the final stages of preparation by the Phillipsons of New Zealand. This book, a revision of the classification of the Lapponicum Series, will be illustrated with color prints of each of the species in that series. Mention has already been made of the forthcoming book publishing ratings and other information on American Rhododendron hybrids. Azaleas will not be included because a revision of Lee's Azalea Book as planned by the American Horticulture Society under the leadership of Dr. David Leach. I can assure you that the Publications Committee has worked actively to publish books, leaflets, and lists for our reading pleasure and gardening needs.
Working with the Publications Committee, our Registrar Ed Parker, has compiled a listing of over 2,000 names of rhododendrons and azaleas registered throughout the world since 1958, when the Royal Horticultural Society last published such a list. This supplement provides a valuable source of information to those persons who wish to name new varieties.
Ed Parker is also developing a certificate to be presented with each new variety registration. It is anticipated that such a certificate will encourage a more active variety registration by our membership, although right now there are about 100 registration requests in progress, including Robert Gartrell's and Al Reid"s azaleas, 21 Henry Yates plants, 17 Dexters from Heman Howard. Many of the unregistered clones that have been around for a number of years are, at long last, being registered.
Despite this increased activity and awareness of the need for registration, there still remains an awesome number of unregistered clones. Each of you is urged to send in names of such unregistered clones now being distributed among our members. I wish to personally encourage each of you to assist the Registrar in registering all existing and proposed clones of rhododendrons and azaleas. In this way, we may avoid name duplications which are so confusing.
Special thanks therefore should go to Ed Parker, our uniquely hard-working and conscientious Registrar. Although the Board at its February meeting gave Ed a vote of thanks, some of you may wish to give him your personal thanks - or most important - your cooperation.
At this point, I wish to convey special gratitude and recognition to the other wonderful lady of our Society, Esther Berry - both in her capacity as a hard-working Executive Secretary, and equally hard-working Chairlady of the Seed Exchange. The Seed Exchange is known throughout the Rhododendron world, and I never tire of making the remark that this Exchange will have as great an impact on present and future generations of rhododendrons and azaleas as any activity now being conducted by our Society. If you have appreciated the work of the Seed Exchange, one way you can show it is to send Esther color slides of some of the outstanding plants you have grown from seed received. Esther is anxious to develop a set of slides for the American Rhododendron Society Slide Library.
And speaking of color slides, I am delighted to report on the gratifying progress of the Slide Library, under the direction of Fred Galle, and ably assisted by Mr. Emil Hager for the East Coast and Mr. Arthur Dome of the West Coast. Five programs have been brought up-to-date and duplicate sets made along with narrations on tape for distribution to local Chapters, civic organizations, and garden groups. These five programs include:
Propagation of Rhododendrons - John Lofthouse Rhododendron Species - Dr. Carl Phetteplace Brodich Castle and Gardens - John S. Basford, Scotland Malesian Rhododendrons in Australia - A. W. Headlam New Zealand Rhododendrons - H. R. Lasker Rhododendrons in Their Series - Warren Berg Malesian Rhododendrons - Dr. H. Sleumer National Rhododendron Garden at Olinda, Australia - Arthur W. Headlam
The Slide Library is a valuable resource to our organization, a useful service to our local Chapters, and needed source of information to the general public.
The Shows and Judging Committee under the joint leadership of Betty Hager and Renee Hill have worked hard in developing a set of standard regulations for our Rhododendron shows. Such standardization, especially in judging rules, is needed in order that our shows may be more meaningful. With the initiation of International Shows in conjunction with our annual meetings, it becomes even more urgent to have more precise guidelines.
As a basic supplement to the Seed Exchange and a vital asset in the improvement of rhododendrons by the hybridizers is the A.R.S. Pollen Bank. In 1976 a total of 180 different kinds of highly select pollens from all over the world were available in the Bank. I wish to personally thank not only Marthaann Mayer for her part as "banker" but also all the members of her committee, as well as the "depositors" in the Bank. As the assets of the Bank improve, so will the net worth of our entire Society.
And while on the subject of assets, perhaps none of us have taken advantage of the valuable assets we have in our native species. Will someone please explain to me why these native species are prized so highly outside of their native habitats, and apparently so little valued within their natural range. We wish to commend Fred Galle and his Native Azalea Committee for their efforts to develop a heightened interest in these uniquely beautiful plants. May our appreciation of the native species grow to match their charm and beauty. And there can be no doubt that under the leadership of Dr. Frank West, the evergreen azaleas have at long last taken their rightful place in our Society affairs. In fact, with the heightened awareness of azaleas as the result of the superb displays of these unsurpassable plants last year in Valley Forge, one might well consider 1976 as the "Year of the Azalea." Perhaps as a recognition that azaleas now reign supreme, our local chapter has changed its awards from a single recognition of "Best in the Show" to Best Azalea in the Show and Best Rhododendron in the Show. In my judgment the Evergreen Azalea Committee has made a long-lasting impact on our membership which will assure azaleas their rightful place in our Society.
The Breeders Roundtable has now become an inseparable part of our annual meetings and many of you will attend tomorrow. It is one of the accomplishments for which the Research Committee takes just pride. Another similar activity is planned immediately prior to the Annual Meeting next year in New York where the committee is arranging an International Rhododendron Conference, with a primary purpose of bringing some order to the somewhat chaotic state of Rhododendron nomenclature. For some unknown reason, in recent years there has been a rash of splitters, Jumpers, and hybrid variations of the two groups in classifying Rhododendron species. We fervently hope that this conference will cause a "bringing together" of these views and once more restore stability in our Rhododendron species names. It would be nice, for example, if we all knew with some certainty whether a certain beautiful plant in our gardens was R. yakushimanum or R. metternichii var yakushimanum.
The endowment fund for the ARS Research Foundation is making an unexpectedly healthy growth. It presently amounts to $ 11,823.40. This growth is especially remarkable because it represents free-will gifts and pledges received at the annual meetings in Seattle and Philadelphia. The appeal to the entire membership is now in its final stages, and we are fully confident the response will be overwhelming. Our goal is $100,000 by 1980. My own firm belief is that this endowment fund will never stop growing, and I confidently predict that by our Centennial Meeting, 67 years hence, it will have grown to $1 million.
Already our Society is beginning to benefit from its research program. For the first time, rhododendrons have been propagated by tissue culture methods. When perfected, this method of rapid propagation will benefit each member. We predict that within the next decade even the most difficult to propagate species or hybrid will be increased by the thousands, in the same manner that today one single rare orchid plant can be multiplied into several hundred thousand plants within one year.
Twelve researchers in eight universities are busy working to solve rhododendron problems. Their findings will appear from time to time in the Bulletin. Another project on effects of mycorrhizae on the growth and health of rhododendrons has just been initiated by the Research Committee. We are anxious to start work on some of the other highly urgent problems such as effective controls for root weevils and azalea petal blight.
The final committee to be recognized is the Long Range Planning Committee chaired by Curt Huey. This Committee receives the really tough assignments, those that no one else cares to tackle. This committee, perhaps more than any other, determines the direction and growth of our Society.
The subject of long-range planning leads into my second objective tonight, a brief look into the future of the American Rhododendron Society.
Our American Rhododendron Society centennial celebration will be in 2044, 67 years from now. Few (if any) of us will be present at that celebration. But the foundations we lay and courses we set will greatly affect that occasion. If those foundations are firm and the courses straight, we will have determined the nature of that centennial celebration even more so than if we were to be present in person.
What should those courses be, and what foundations must we lay, firmly and irreplaceably?
Recently, I received a copy of a treatise entitled "Rhododendrons in the British Isles - An Irreverent Approach." The primary thrust of this treatise was that the average amateur rhododendron enthusiast or nurseryman in the British Isles either did not or could not participate in a British counterpart Society to ours. In fact, published privately by Mr. Dan Mayers, many of the superb rhododendron plants in the British Isles were not as available to the average Britisher as they are to any of us in this room tonight. Let me quote one statement from the above paper:
"Americans, representing the American Rhododendron Society and the Species Foundation, are given everything they want in most hospitable fashion. The finest British rhododendrons are alive and well - and living in America. If an Englishman wants seeds from an important British garden he can get them easily - through the American Rhododendron Society...
Meanwhile, English gardeners are strangers in their own country, with fewer privileges than foreigners enjoy."
What goals can we set to assure that this situation will never happen within the American Rhododendron Society? The goals are clear cut:
The American Rhododendron Society must be an association of everyone interested in rhododendrons and azaleas - enthusiastic amateurs, dedicated nurserymen, backyard gardeners, trained professionals - anyone regardless of circumstances, size of collection, or sophistication.
Our members must be characterized as free and ready to distribute and share any plant or any information. They must be friendly and enthusiastic in assisting anyone at anytime in any phase of rhododendrons or their culture. I am convinced that the love of rhododendrons and azaleas opens all doors to all with truly shared interests. In such a situation there can be absolutely no favoritism and no snobbishness.
What are the built-in safeguards we must take as a Society to assure these desirable goals? They are simply this:
The responsibility for the Society must be placed squarely in the hands of amateurs, backyard gardeners, nurserymen, - in fact anyone whether he grows one plant or a magnificent collection covering acres of ground. We must encourage a full and free exchange of scions, cuttings, pollen, and seed.
We must encourage close cooperation with other National Rhododendron Societies, abroad and at home.
We must encourage local chapters, local shows, local activities of all kinds, even though at times they may seem to compete at the national level.
We must encourage free exchange of plant material, seeds, pollen and above all avoid favoritism; avoid elitism.
We must avoid having a few people run the society, there should be a regular turnover in membership of committees, officers, and responsibilities.
We must recognize that any enthusiastic dedicated amateur can master even the most complex skills and become expert in the most sophisticated techniques. There must be no barriers to achievement and opportunities.
These goals and safeguards are exemplified in our ARS emblem. If we will truly follow them, I can assure you our centennial meeting in 2044 will be a real bang-up affair. How I would love to look in on it!
Now ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor, and indubitable pleasure, to introduce Dr. Ned Brockenbrough, your next President. Ned, the future of this Society now rests in your capable hands. Thank you all very much, from the bottom of my heart, for the best two years of my life.