From the President
As I write this on a snowy day in early February, the annual catalog of the ARS Seed Exchange has just arrived, with its enticing list of species and hand-pollinated hybrid crosses. As in many ARS households, other business is shelved temporarily while the list is perused with a cupidity worthy of Midas and the order blank filled out and returned. Visions of densely branched plants with perfect, indumented, pest-repelling foliage and covered with prize-winning trusses, or of a faultless miniature mound of foliage and flowers occupying the choicest spot in the rock garden, or perhaps of a spreading group of native azaleas with delicate, perfumed blossoms gracing the verges of the woodland garden, fill our thoughts and dreams. Such is the promise and lure of the seed list!
Those who make our dreams possible of attainment are, firstly, the contributors of seed. The over 1,450 seed lots in this year's list represent the end product of countless hours of planning and making crosses, and collecting and cleaning seed, by over 150 individuals. Seed contributions come not only from the United States and Canada but from the far reaches of the globe: Great Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Secondly, it takes someone with almost boundless energy and enthusiasm to pull the whole operation together: receive, inventory, process and package the seed, prepare and mail the catalog, and receive and fill the hundreds of orders that come in. Your Society has been most fortunate over the years in having a series of capable and hard working individuals to undertake these demanding tasks: Esther Berry, Kay Ogle, Bill Tietjen, Linda Wylie, and currently George Woodard, while Bill Moyles continues his responsibility for vireya seed. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. May the dreams keep coming!
Contributors of seed often make use of the ARS Pollen Bank, a service that has been operated single-handedly for nearly 25 years by Marthaann Mayer. Marty is about to begin a well-deserved retirement from the Pollen Bank (see notice below).
The Seed Exchange and Pollen Bank are just two of the many activities and services now provided by the ARS and its chapters, continuing a tradition established by the founders of the Society. What would those founders think of the present state of the Society? We are approaching the close of our first half-century (as well as the close of my term as your president); what can we expect from the next 50 years?
Our membership has grown from a few dozen visionary pioneers in 1945 to almost 6,000 members today; shall we continue that rate of expansion into our next century? The original group in Portland has multiplied to our present 72 chapters in North America and overseas; will new groups here and abroad be attracted to our ideals and form an ever-increasing circle of local chapters?
Gardens created and maintained by some of our chapters provide an invaluable medium for the edification and enjoyment of the local gardening public; will the next 50 years see every chapter providing this service, if only on a limited scale?
We have made progress in fulfilling our educational mission by our botanical and horticultural publishing efforts, through committees devoted to different aspects of rhododendron culture and evaluation, and by funding scientific studies through our Research Foundation; will we maintain and increase those programs for the benefit of all?
Through the tireless volunteer work of our Registrar of Plant Names, order has been and continues to be brought out of the confusion of duplicate and invalid names, and new names are constantly being registered to avoid such confusion in the future; will we have the foresight and the means to fund this important service, should this become necessary?
Our headquarters office has led a peripatetic existence, following the residence of our executive director; will the Society some day have a permanent location it can call home?
I hesitate to predict the future, but one thing is sure in my mind: as long as there are gardeners and plants people fascinated by the diversity and beauty to be found in the genus Rhododendron there will be an American Rhododendron Society, dedicated as it has been since its inception to facilitating the exchange of ideas, information and experiences (as well as seeds and pollen!) among its members.
Pollen Bank: Marthaann Mayer, retiring chair of the ARS Pollen Bank after many years of administering this important service, will be succeeded by Ronald Rabideau. She will complete distribution of pollen this spring. Pollen contributions, however, should be sent to Ronald Rabideau, Barre, MA.