In Memoriam: Milton Walker, M.D.
Ed Siegmund, Eugene, Oregon
The American Rhododendron Society and the Rhododendron Species Foundation lost a friend when Dr. Milton V. Walker passed away February 18, 1986. At the time of his death at his home in Redlands, California, Dr. Walker was 83.
In the early 1960's, Dr. Walker's interest in collecting the best species forms prompted the American Rhododendron Society to create a Species Committee. Under Dr. Walker's leadership, this committee set out to locate and describe superior forms of American species. As a guiding influence in the Species Committee, Dr. Walker traveled several times to English and Scottish gardens famous for growing superior forms of rhododendron species.
Based on these investigations, the committee recommended that the American Rhododendron Society's Board establish and maintain a collection of the best forms of the species. The board established a new organization, the Rhododendron Species Foundation, to fulfill the important goal of preserving the best of the species.
In 1964 at the Walker estate, Dr. Walker, J. Harold Clark, Edward Dunn, Fred Robbins, Cecil Smith, and Wales and Ruth Wood met and formalized the Foundation's goals of safeguarding the superior rhododendron species. These and other knowledgeable and enthusiastic species collectors feared that inferior forms would be propagated and sold to an unwary public. They foresaw the sad day when economic pressures on English and Scottish gardens would force them to abandon their position as the protectors of superior species in cultivation.
Dr. Walker's preservation efforts in America, England and Scotland led to generous response from garden owners in all three countries. Scions were flown from England and Scotland to the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens in Vancouver and grown there before being sent to Dr. Walker's estate in Pleasant Hill, Oregon. On his thirty acre site, Dr. Walker enlarged and nurtured the collection until 1971 when P.H. Brydon took over this caretaking job. At that time, 2,000 plants were dug and moved to Mr. Brydon's, Salem, Oregon, home where, under his care and guidance, the collection grew substantially.
In 1973, Dr. Walker and the committee began discussions with Weyerhaeuser Corporation in the hopes of establishing a rhododendron species display garden. After many discussions, a permanent site for the collection was established on twenty three wooded acres adjoining Weyerhaeuser's, Tacoma, Washington, offices. With Dr. Walker and the committee's thoughtful guidance and dedication, the dream of a permanent home for this irreplaceable collection became a reality. Weyerhaeuser Corporation's support of this horticultural venture has been invaluable to the preservation of the collection.
Dr. Walker's dream of collecting superior species forms and preserving them so they were available to all who were interested in the genus came true. He contributed much time, energy and financial support toward this vision for the society. Those who grow rhododendrons have lost a friend, but his vision of a garden for superior forms of species has been translated into reality. We are forever in his debt.
Dr. Walker is survived by his wife Helen, a son Ian and a daughter Margaret. Helen's kind words and gentle encouragement helped keep the species collection vision glowing brightly when all efforts seemed hopeless. Dr. Walker and Helen's interests in the future of the Rhododendron Species Foundation and the American Rhododendron Society are being continued by Ian. Ian Walker is a member of the foundation's board and has served as Treasurer.