From the President
The American Rhododendron Society is blessed with many dedicated individuals, who give freely of their time and talent to maintain a vibrant, efficiently functioning organization. Not the least of these unsung heroes and heroines are the District Directors, who represent the interests of the local chapters and their members at the national level. (The national Board of Directors is composed of a director from each of the 12 ARS districts, the director at large, the five officers and the past president.)
Last October, these good people assembled at Danbury, Conn., some of them traveling from great distances, to conduct the business of the Society at its semi-annual Board meeting. I think some of the matters discussed and acted upon there will be of interest to members:
• Treasurer Bob Murray reported that the Society ended the past fiscal year (August 31) in the black, thanks to several factors: careful control of costs by both Executive Director Barbara Hall and editor Sonja Nelson, an increase in our investment income, and last but by no means least, generous contributions by chapters and individuals both to the Endowment Fund and the General (operating) Fund. A detailed report will be in a future issue of the Journal.
• The criteria for the Pioneer Achievement Award were modified to allow the presentation of two awards per year, one to a living person and one posthumously. This is one of the highest awards with which the Society can honor an individual, and is given for outstanding achievement in the advancement of rhododendrons in America.
• A new Hardiness Committee was authorized, with responsibility for accumulating hardiness data on registered hybrids and clones of species. This information will be generated by observations made in each chapter, and will be published periodically, for the benefit of the membership as well as the general gardening public. Additionally, the Board adopted a new standard definition of hardiness, which will take into account the variables which often affect plant performance to a greater degree than simply low temperatures.
• Our Long Range Planning Committee, ably chaired by Eastern Vice President Frank West, was authorized to proceed with planning a survey of the membership to determine whether the Society is meeting the needs and expectations of its members, and to provide guidance to the Board in charting the Society's direction over the next decade or more.
• Ratings Committee Chairman Pat Halligan reported that about one quarter of the chapters had replied to the questionnaire sent out earlier this year, with the object of developing lists of "Garden Gem" varieties - the proven best-performing plants in the different regions of the country. Hopefully, by the time this appears in print he will have received replies from many more chapters; if these lists are to be meaningful, the selections should have the broadest possible support in each area. This is a project worthy of the attention of every member. There is an urgent need to disseminate this kind of information to the public, so that a gardener in Ohio will know that he should select 'Janet Blair' over 'Loderi Venus', and a gardener in the San Francisco area will know he has a good chance of success with 'Anna Rose Whitney'. Other plant societies regularly publish lists of "good-doers," but except for commendable local efforts (such as those by the Princeton and Greater Philadelphia chapters) the ARS has not done so since the publication of American Rhododendron Hybrids in 1980.
Many other matters occupied your Board during the day-long session; your District Director will be conveying a full report to your chapter. Remember that your Director is the direct line of communication between the chapter (or non-chapter) membership and the national organization; if you have questions or concerns about the direction or operation of the Society, he or she is the appropriate person to bring those matters to the attention of your Board. And at the same time, a pat on the back for all his or her efforts on your behalf would not be out of order!