Estonian Rhododendron Society Founded
Kaarel Voitk, Danish Chapter
At a meeting at Tallinn Botanical Garden on June 7, 1992, the Estonian Rhododendron Society ("Eesti Rhododendroni Selts" or "ERS" in Estonian) was founded. Forty-two persons signed themselves as members, and a few more had expressed their interest but could not attend the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting I showed a selection of slides, mainly from my own garden near Stockholm, of species as well as hybrids which might be of interest for growers in Estonia. After that, the botanical garden's rhododendron collection, situated in a thinned oak/pine mixed forest, was demonstrated. The collection comprises 43 species, all of them propagated from seed. The planting had been made in a systematic way with related species placed near another. Of almost every species there were a lot of individual plants, and these had been allowed to grow together to form a wide shrubbery of that species. The arrangement was pleasing to the eye and at the same time demonstrated the variability within a species. For instance, everyone could see that Rhododendron japonicum had the brick-red colour, which most people associate with this species, while a small part of the plants had a light yellow colour and that there were no intermediate nuances. Their R. wardii was one of the best I have seen - very healthy, compact and with beautiful foliage, covered with deep yellow flowers.
After the presentation of their present rhododendron collection it was shown how planting is done by planting a R. orbiculare which I had taken from my garden, and after that how controlled pollination is done. Also a lottery was arranged with a lot of young rhodies as prizes.
After a late lunch in the cafeteria of the botanical garden, discussions were held about future activities, by-laws, etc. The meeting postponed a decision about the membership fee until after the re-introduction of the Estonian currency, the Estonian crown (EEK), later the same month. The board has now suggested the yearly membership fee 20 EEK (the average monthly salary in Estonia is probably below 500 EEK - equal to 42 US dollars!). Considering the extreme poverty in which the long Soviet-Russian occupation has left Estonia, it will take many years before individual rhodo lovers in Estonia can afford membership in the ARS, buy western literature, plants or seed, etc.
Olev Abner (address: Tallinn Botanical Garden, Kloostrimetsat. 44, EE0019 Tallinn, Estonia) who is a young dendrologist belonging to the staff of Tallinn Botanical Garden, was elected president of the new rhododendron society.