The Tacoma Rhododendron Show
Tacoma, Washington, May 7th and 8th, 1949
Leonard F. Frisbie, Show Chairman
On a day in the spring of '48 I was in the Bank of California at Tacoma clearing some Foreign Exchange drafts to finance the purchase of some British rhododendrons. A teller made a joking remark about the money I was constantly sending out of the country to England. In order to justify my conduct I took along some cut trusses on my next trip. They created a lot of interest and so I suggested that the Bank allow me to bring in a plant for display for educational purposes. They agreed and I took in a fairly large plant of R. 'Mars' that was very well flowered. I was not prepared for the enthusiasm with which the people of Tacoma flocked to the Bank to see this rhododendron. It was a community sensation. The people at the Bank asked if I would be interested in displaying a large group of plants during the '49 season. I countered with the suggestion that the Bank allow rhododendron people to stage a general show that would involve quite a lot of growers. They agreed and so we were on our way toward Tacoma's First Rhododendron Show. The idea received solid community wide support from the start. The Capital District of the State Federation of Garden Clubs under the direction of Mrs. Killian J. Weiler agreed to help sponsor the show as did the Tacoma Garden Club, affiliated with The Garden Club of America. Mrs. George G. Franklin is President of the Tacoma Club. These garden clubs combined their efforts to care for the work of many phases of the Show. Mrs. H. R. Nordlund chaired a committee that brought into our show many outstanding arrangements of rhododendron flowers. Mrs. Horace Wright did a very effective job as Chairman of our staging committee. Publicity was handled by Mrs. Howard Coppock and Mrs. Herbert Hunt.
The Milwaukee Road allowed us to use their beautiful new Streamliner, The Olympian Hiawatha, for a Mobile Show Unit that carried fine rhododendron flowers all the way to Chicago. Mrs. Corydon Wagner was Chairman of committee that did a beautiful and artistic piece of work in decorating this train. Mrs. Albert Guy made corsages for delegations that visited the train at stops on the way to Chicago. The Tacoma Chamber of Commerce cooperated with this feature of our show and had a delegation with the party that rode the train to Seattle to greet visitors there and show them through the train.
An attempt was made to fly in blossoms from England for display. A fast and thorough set-up was arranged, but the flowers were frozen as the plane moved across Canada. Lord Aberconway and Mrs. J. P. C. Russell cooperated with this venture in England.
Seattle and Tacoma newspapers and radio stations were very kind to us and our show had wonderful publicity. This resulted in a lot of public interest that brought us all the people we could comfortably handle on Saturday May 7th and kept us crowded all day Sunday. The Show was seen by thousands and everyone was enthusiastic.
We were very proud of the fact that we were able to display many fine rhododendrons. Mr. A. P. Fredrickson of Seattle won our only award, a cup for the best plant in the show. His entry was a cross between R. 'Peter Koster' and R. 'Loderi'. The color was Cherry (HCC). 722/2 and this is a beautiful shade of red. The plant was a magnificent specimen and was well flowered by many big trusses 7" high and 7½" across. The flowers were 4½" across and there were 12 to 15 flowers in a truss making it beautifully well filled, but not crowded.
H. L. Larson of Tacoma had an outstanding display that featured many fine plants. A noble specimen of R. 'Loderi' var. 'King George' attracted a lot of attention because this plant was slowed in it's flower process by the use of cakes of ice placed on the roots. The plant had more than 60 trusses. Large, well flowered plants of R. 'Loder's White', R. 'Hon. Jean Montague' along with the fine form of R. 'Fusilier' that Mr. Larson introduced to the Pacific Northwest all helped to make this one of the best displays in our show.
Bonnell Nursery of Renton had a very fine and a very colorful display that aroused keen interest on the part of the public. There were a lot of nice varieties in this exhibit and they were well placed for good effect. Every person who passed through the show was enthusiastic about the beautiful specimen of R. Alice with it's huge trusses of lovely pink.
The Puget Sound Nursery and Garden Shop of Tacoma had a beautifully designed corner space that provided an ideal setting for many good varieties of rhododendron. 'J. H. Van Nes' was a variety that was new to many in the Tacoma area and it's bright red flowers demanded attention. R. impeditum was used quite effectively in this display as a border plant.
The Firth Nursery of Tacoma used some nice plants of R. schlippenbachii as the highlight of a display that featured many interesting varieties of the azalea series which were arranged as a very attractive small azalea garden.
The Tacoma Seed Co. of Tacoma featured some very nice specimen of R. 'Britannia' among other good varieties. This display showed one of the really nice plants of the show, a very attractive form of R. 'Fabia'. The plant was a nice size and well flowered. The color was light terra cotta and the flowers were large and well expanded.
The Woland Park Floral Co. of Sumner had a very striking display of greenhouse azaleas. They featured two new varieties of hardy Ghent azaleas, 'Lord Byron' and 'Phidias'.
The University of Washington Arboretum had a fine showing of rhododendrons and azaleas. Several large plants of R. cinnabarinum in various forms were featured in the background. A large plant of 'Lady Clementine Mitford' and fine specimen of R. 'Azma' aroused a lot of curiosity because they were unknown in the Tacoma area. A lovely carpeting of azaleas bordered the display.
Mr. Herbert Ihrig brought over some cuttings from hybrids and species that were unusually good. He also brought along some foliage from the more unusual species.
Lectures with colored slides were offered to the public on each afternoon of the show. Mr. A. P. Fredrickson, Dr. John Hanley and Mr. Brian O. Mulligan, Director of the Arboretum, all had a good hearing for their very interesting and helpful lectures.
The show was such a success and it was so well received that plans are already under way for a 1950 show at the same location. The judges for the best plant in show were Brian O' Mulligan of the University of Washington Arboretum and Herbert Ihrig veteran collector of Seattle.