Massachusetts Chapter to Host Annual Meeting on Cape Cod
Augustus M. Kelley
Little Compton, R.I.
Preparations are well under way for the 1980 Annual Meeting of the American Rhododendron Society, to be held in Hyannis, on Cape Cod, May 29 to June 1, under the auspices of the Massachusetts Chapter.
Cape Cod, for those who have not yet had the good fortune to visit it, is a unique creation of nature: a peninsula of rolling dunes and sparkling beaches - the terminal moraine and outwash plain of the great glaciers in the ice age, jutting some sixty miles into the Atlantic. Its climate is tempered by the surrounding sea. One of the first areas to be settled and cultivated after the founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1620, its history is still alive in quaint cottages, churches and harbors.
Hyannis is the principal metropolis of the Cape, easily reached by air, bus and highway from Boston and New York. Its central location on the southern side of the Cape makes for easy access to all other parts of this scenic and historic area. Headquarters for the meeting will be Dunfey's Hyannis Resort, a new conference center complete with its won 18-hole golf course, health spas, and indoor and outdoor pools.
The program we are offering is centered around the theme "Success with Rhododendrons: Lessons from the New England Experience", and is designed to illustrate the full scale of rhododendron activities in New England.
We will start off Thursday night with two talks on Dexter rhododendrons. Heman Howard, long time horticulturist at Heritage Plantation in Sandwich, will tell the history of the Dexter estate and take us on a pictorial tour, in preparation for the visit we will make on the following morning to see the Dexter collection at Heritage Plantation. Jack Cowles, who was for eight years the horticulturist at the Dexter estate and is now at the Hunnewell Arboretum in Wellesley, Massachusetts (a unique collection of mature trees that could very well justify an extra day's visit), will discuss the hybridizing work of Charles O. Dexter and others who have worked on developing rhododendrons suitable for the New England climate.
Friday afternoon our first speaker will be Edmund Mezitt, proprietor of Weston Nurseries, who has developed a successful group of floriferous compact rhododendrons well suited to this section, who will speak on his experience in hybridizing these plants and more to come. Ed has also undertaken to organize the Breeders' Round Table to be held on Sunday June 1. He is planning to pinpoint the problems of breeding new plants for commercial production in which he is vastly experienced.
Continuing on Friday afternoon, Neil Jorgensen, teacher of environmental education at Wheelock College and author of two important books, The Sierra Club's Naturalist's Guide to Southern New England and Guide to the New England Landscape, will discuss microclimates in this area. Gustav Mehlquist, Professor of Plant Breeding Emeritus, University of Connecticut, Storrs, will describe his own new introductions which are scheduled to come on the market in the near future.
Friday night, Dr. Peter Ashton, new Director of the Arnold Arboretum, will give the keynote speech, describing the contributions of the Arnold Arboretum, the preeminent horticultural institution in New England, if not the entire country, and its plans for the future. Needless to say, explorers for the Arboretum, to mention only Wilson and Rock, introduced large numbers of rhododendron species, which many of us happily grow in our gardens, while some of us with somewhat more exotic interests are trying to reconstitute a collection of Wilson's "Fifty Azaleas", which unfortunately seem to have been dispersed.
Saturday afternoon, we will have three more speakers of note. Kristen Fenderson, well-known plantsman, landscape artist, and author of a forthcoming reference work on primulas, will speak on companion plants for rhododendrons; H. Lincoln Foster, past president of the American Rock Garden Society, author of Rock Gardening - A Guide to Growing A/pines and other Wild Flowers in American Gardens, rhododendron hybridizer and gardener extraordinary, will speak on rhododendrons and the New England calendar; Joseph Hudak, Vice President of Olmsted Associates, oldest and most distinguished landscaping firm in the country, will speak on using rhododendrons in the landscape.
There will be tours of three gardens. On Friday morning we will visit Heritage Plantation in Sandwich, on the Cape not far from Hyannis, where we will see the most complete known collection of Dexter hybrids. This 76-acre estate should be at its best, with over 30,000 plants in bloom, some of them Dexter's original plants, now 40 to 50 years old. In addition to the rhododendrons, Heritage Plantation has become famous for its collections of other trees and shrubs, as well as its collections of antique automobiles and early Americana, beautifully displayed in several museum buildings on the grounds.
Saturday morning we will visit the garden of Harold and Eveline Pilkington at Monument Beach, Cape Cod, where they have assembled an extraordinary collection of the rhododendrons hybridized by Tony Consolini, head gardener for Charles O. Dexter and a remarkable hybridizer in his own right. Through the joint efforts of the Pilkingtons and the Massachusetts Chapter, these plants are just beginning to become available; they will come as something of a revelation to those who have never heard of Consolini before.
Also on Saturday morning, we will see the grounds of Friedrich W. Schumacher, David Allen Proprietor, in Sandwich, one of the most important tree seed businesses in the country. It is very much in the nature of an arboretum since an unusual collection of trees was assembled to provide seed. Mr. Schumacher, who is now retired, has a deep interest in rhododendrons and has done much hybridizing.
For spouses and children whose interests lie elsewhere than in rhododendrons, there will be a tour of historical Plymouth on Friday afternoon, and a tour of Provincetown and the Cape Cod National Seashore, on the outer arm of the Cape, on Saturday afternoon. Rhododendron lovers, spouses and children alike will be able to savor the gustatory delights of a traditional New England clambake, with fresh lobster, on Friday night.
In addition to the scheduled tours, we are arranging for a number of other places of horticultural interest in eastern Massachusetts to be open to members of the Society on Sunday. The National Truss Show will be open on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. We urge all who attend the Annual Meeting to bring trusses, either to enter in competition or for the conversation table. Additionally, a display is being planned with a selection of mature plants grown in New England, in a landscape setting.
The major activities of the Massachusetts Chapter are beginning to be rather well known in the Society, and the Annual Meeting will provide the opportunity to make the acquaintance of its active members. Currently we have two major efforts. The first is directed to the publication of The Rosebay, which comes out twice a year; there will be a special issue for the Annual Meeting. The second is our Plants for Members program, which is engaged in the production of rooted cuttings and small plants for our members. The Committee concentrates on interesting and less well known species and hybrids which are uncommon in commerce. The point of major effort in recent years has been the propagation of Dexters. Through the efforts of this Committee, the Chapter is amassing a substantial supply of the Dexters that are not in commerce, which will be a major element in the plant sale at the Annual Meeting. We are planning to include a list of the plants for sale in the announcement of the Annual Meeting which is to be mailed to the national and international membership. We hope that this will enable members coming to the Annual Meeting to arrange in advance for the purchase of plants they want, but they must come to the meeting to get them - there will be no shipping.
As one of the oldest areas of the United States, New England has a deep horticultural tradition. Visitors from other parts of the country will see rhododendrons in their hundreds and thousands rendering spectacular the lawns and dooryards of this section. These well established plants, predominantly of the ironclad persuasion, may very well put on a show which will make many of us wonder why we are so avid for the newer hybrids.
Aside from the immediate interest of the Annual Meeting, Boston and its surroundings offer for the visitor's enjoyment some horticultural institutions of national and international importance, which can well be worth an extra day; I need mention only the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain (Boston), the preserve of the New England Wild Flower Society - The Garden in the Woods - in Framingham, and Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton. To the best of my knowledge, Boston is one of the few cities in the United States which can boast a Horticultural Hall.* This is the home of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, founded in 1829, which publishes Horticulture, with a national readership, and maintains one of the finest gardening libraries in the country.
Boston, traditionally the "Hub" of New England, is one of the very few cities in the United States that constitutes an individual and unique culture of its own. It has more than its share of universities and colleges, museums and art galleries, not to mention famous restaurants, and probably the last genuine antiquarian book store in the country with a high level collection. Those members of the Rhododendron Society who are on the fence about making the journey to the 1980 Annual Meeting should allow the attractions of Boston to tip the balance. If you are still undecided, remember that the American Rock Garden Society is holding its Annual Meeting on the previous weekend, just north of Boston, including an excellent program and tours of outstanding gardens. Thus it would be possible to attend the annual meetings of the two top specialist garden societies on the same trip. As a final incentive, the Tall Ships - last seen hereabouts in 1976 - will be making their reappearance in Boston Harbor on the weekend of our Annual Meeting.
* Worcester, Massachusetts, is the only other city I know of that also has its own Horticultural Hall.