ARS Charter Members
The commonly known ARS Charter Members, who numbered approx. 150, were those who joined during the first meeting. There are others who participated during the first year in the formation of the Society whom we honor as Founding Members. The following members honored here are the five living Charter Members.
Ruth Hansen and her late husband, Ted, were among the first members of the Rhododendron Society that started in Portland in 1945. Portland's Rhododendron Society soon grew into the national organization known as the American Rhododendron Society.
Ruth served as secretary both in the local chapter and in the national organization for a total of 17 years, from 1947 to 1964. She gave help and guidance year after year to many new chapters. She said she was on the phone every day, often to Rudolph Henny, the editor of the Quarterly Bulletin.
Ruth was awarded the Gold Medal by the American Rhododendron Society. She received that high honor on March 8,1975, for her help in the organization, preservation and growth of the ARS.
Ruth and her husband Ted were a very busy couple in the early days of the Society. Ted took over as Garden Chair after John Bacher. When there was a need for a building at the Test Garden on Crystal Springs Island, the Society asked Ted, an architect with the Bonneville Administration, to design a building for testing plants. In spite of the shortage of materials due to World War II, Ted was able to design and build a Quonset hut. When the cost for heating the building became excessive and there had been some vandalism there, the heat was shut off and the plants were moved out. Later, the name of the area was officially changed to Crystal Springs Garden, a name chosen because of the many large springs in the area. The Quonset hut is no longer used for testing plants but is used occasionally for shows.
Ruth managed to take a trip in spite of her busy schedule at home with the children. Back then she had to take a train to New York; then she flew to London, took in the Chelsea Flower Show and went on to Sikkim and Nepal for 10 days. She said the tour was not with rhododendron people but just something she wanted to do. Ruth still lives in a home in North Portland that she and Ted built. It is a show place with rhododendrons and horticultural treasures.
We are fortunate that Ruth and Ted Hansen were here to help our first chapter president, Claude Sersanous, secure the use of the Island in Eastmoreland from the city of Portland. What a jewel our rhododendron garden has turned out to be.
(As told by John Henny himself.)
In the early '30s my brother Rudolph and I took our wives on a trip the length of the Pacific Coast in Oregon. It happened rhodos and azaleas were in bloom. We were able to find a person who had grown some from seed and we bought eight or 10. When they were in bloom we were hooked. We then visited nurseries in Oregon that were growing a few named hybrids (Van Veen, Esch, Woodland Nursery, Pilington and Rusell in Mollala), and we bought what was available. We heard about Endre Ostbo near Seattle (Bellevue). We bought most of the things he had. Then we learned about Layritz Nursery in Victoria. They had a number of British hybrids that we bought. They also had catalogs from British nurseries and made arrangements to have plants shipped with Layritz. We also found membership applications to the RHS. They also had several yearly handbooks that we bought.
I then wrote to Lionel de Rothschild and Lord Aberconway. They answered my letters and later agreed to send us some scions. These were unsuccessful, as they had to go through an inspection station in Hoboken. They fumigated with methyl bromide and were nearly dead on arrival.
There was an international conference sponsored by the RHS in London in 1949 which I attended. I met quite a number of the nursery people and learned a lot. People from New Zealand, Australia, Holland, Germany, Scotland and Wales were there.
I then met Edmund de Rothschild in San Francisco in 1947, and we drove to Oregon. He wanted to see the redwood trees. We spent a night in Medford and the next day fishing the Rogue River. Eddie bet me a silver dollar that he could catch the first fish. I still have the dollar.
On one of my trips to England I was introduced to French wines by several friends at dinners. Trips to England after this had to include trips to Burgundy and Bordeaux. I managed to meet the Ginestets who owned Chateau Magaux and Baron Philip de Rothschild, owners of Chateau Mouton. In Burgundy I met Robert Drouhin, who now also owns a vineyard in Oregon. Also I met Andre Gagey, manager of Louis Jadot Vineyards. We became friends, and I was able to buy from them through the House of Soble and Jimmy Blumen, who owned National Wine Co. in San Francisco. My good friend Mat Spear of Spear Beverage cleared them through the OLCC. Friends found out what I was doing and we would get together and have tastings and then order wines for the next tastings and supply the wine cellars.
I had no intention of getting into the business, but Vern Anderson, who had a deli and was tasting with us, had tried numerous times to get me a wholesale license. One day I was in his shop to get some cheese (my favorite cheese is the English Stilton). He asked me to take a walk with him, which led to the Benson Hotel and Seth Hill, manager, London Grill, and Basil Mialus, manager of the hotel. I was informed they wanted a wine list of fine wines but local distributors were not interested in stocking continual supply. They asked me to help them out. I considered and after much debate with myself decided in January 1967 to apply for a license. In February the OLCC granted the license. By 1970 I was working 70 hours a week and took in Howard Hinsdale as a partner. By 1972 we had hired three employees and I was back to 70 hours a week. So I sold out to Howard but had to stay with him for five years at 40 hours a week. By 1992 Howard had 48 employees and he sold out to Columbia Distributing.
I sold the nursery in 1973 to my nephew Frank on his getting a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University. He is now running the nursery.
William Robinson, Portland, Ore., has been an active lifetime charter member since 1945. He received the first Bronze Medal from the Portland Chapter for his volunteer work in helping build the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. His greatest challenge there was building a 300-foot rock garden. He helped move almost all of the large rhododendrons that make up the backbone of the garden. He still volunteers to help anywhere he is needed in the garden. His latest project at the garden was compiling a list of unusual trees. He has also been on the board several times.
Photography has always been his favorite hobby next to traveling, and he has compiled quite a few photos of the garden over the years. He has placed records of all the publications of the ARS at the Oregon Historical Society. This coming year will complete 50 years of documents placed there.
Bill is now retired, after 30 years with Portland Parks, 25 of which were as head gardener. Besides the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, he belongs to many other garden organizations. The Japanese Garden has been a challenge for him. He helped P.T. Tono from Japan build the Japanese Garden in Portland. In 1985 he received a medal from Emperor Hirohito of Japan for helping to create a garden of friendship between the two governments. His medal is the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Sixth Class.
Bill, also called "Robbie," was born on a ranch in Eastern Oregon at Lonerock. His father wanted him to be an attorney, so he headed to law school at the University of Oregon. Unhappy with what he was doing, he quit college in his second year and went to Portland to work for John Bacher of the Swiss Floral Company. After working awhile, he was drafted into the service. He was kept at Fort Lewis by the colonel to take care of the grounds, so had no overseas duties. After his discharge, he went back to Bacher's where he sure learned a lot about all kinds of plants. Rhododendrons were high on the list, and he got to graft them during the winter in the greenhouses. Later, cuttings were the way to go - now it's tissue culture. Bacher, back in the '40s, had many large, older variety rhododendrons at his nursery on Holgate Boulevard, such as 'Pink Pearl', 'Cynthia', 'Sappho', 'Alice', etc.
Bacher was a man with a great sense of humor. One day when they were at the Rhododendron Test Garden doing some planting, Bacher stopped and said to Bill, "See all those ducks in the pond, half in the water and half out? That's the way rhododendrons should be planted." Bill will never forget that. Bacher had just rented some property in the city on the southwest side to grow plants. There was lots of clay there, and one day he made history when he used dynamite to loosen the ground (you imagine the rest). Bill met some of the rhododendron greats over the years and they would tell many stores.
Looking back, Bill wouldn't change a thing. He was able to do the things that made him happy, this is, working with plants.
Bright sunshine and rhodies create an art. Helen Jean Malmo's contribution to her world community is known as "the service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy." She is dedicating all her life to the horticultural business and commitment to quality rhododendron management. Her professional career, as treasurer and vice president of the original Malmo Nursery, started after her marriage to Clark Prescott Malmo. Their heart-soul-inspiration enriched the business and enhanced the international understanding (peace) by dedicated services.
The first, largest nursery was located in Rainier Valley. Jean joined the nursery operation after she moved to Seattle in 1936 from her hometown of Portland, Ore. She graduated from Puyallup High School and University of Puget Sound with a business major. Her first career started as credit manager at Bon Marche Department Store in Seattle. Jean and late husband, Clark, have been extremely active in the arboretum development at South Seattle Community College.
Jean continues to be involved in the daily affairs of Malmo Nurseries including Malmo Wholesale Rhododendron Garden on Whidbey island. The Malmo home, built in 1910 vintage, sits atop a bluff on 15 acres on the western shore of the Puget Sound; the nursery carries selected rhododendrons of various varieties at the show place. She is a charter member of the American Rhododendron Society and a Seattle Chapter member.
She is committed to volunteerism and actively involved in community leaderships as board member of South Seattle Community College, Board Fellow of Seattle Pacific University, active charter member of the University of Washington Board for Foreign Students.
Upon her achievements, Jean is the recipient of Distinguished Service Award from United Nations Association of America (1975) and its Universal Declaration of Human rights (1979); Dedicated Service Award from the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea (1968); Outstanding Service Award from the Foundation of International Understanding through Students of University of Washington (1988); same award from Soroptimist International of the America (1988); Outstanding "Colleague" and "Fellow" Award from Seattle Pacific University (1984 and 1991); Appreciation Award as board member and deacon of University Presbyterian Church (1984); Certificate of Appreciation by Soroptimist International of Seattle North (1991); and Outstanding Contribution by the Nursery Industry of Seattle Chapter (1985).
Jean is still active in the rhododendron growers community, enthusiastic believer for the quality of foliage colors, and willing supporter on people business.
Juanita Fisher Graham
(Mrs. Donald G. Graham Sr.)
Juanita Graham's long history with rhododendrons began in 1931, when she and her husband, Donald G. Graham Sr., built a house in the Broadmore section of Seattle on three city lots. The room to garden sparked Don Graham's interest in plants, especially rhododendrons, from the beginning, and Juanita Graham joined in her husband's horticultural enthusiasms.
Nurturing the Grahams' interest in plants was the landscaper they hired to plan their grounds, Mr. E. Fabi. Before long the Graham garden grew to an additional four lots - three-quarters of an acre, and as early as the 1930s Don Graham was importing rhododendrons from Japan and England. In fact, he was the first amateur to receive a license to import the plants. At its peak the garden was home to some 500 different varieties of rhododendrons. Although Juanita Graham shared her husband's love of rhododendrons, she developed some horticultural interests of her own, namely chrysanthemums, which she grew in a greenhouse on the grounds.
During World War II, Don Graham was stationed with the 8th Air Force in England and visited Exbury, home of Edmund de Rothschild, and became well acquainted with this world renowned grower and hybridizer of rhododendrons. Later, both Mr. and Mrs. Graham visited Exbury. Donald G. Graham Jr., one of the Graham's two sons, remembers Eddie de Rothschild visiting the Graham garden in Seattle.
In the 1940s, when the American Rhododendron Society was still an informal group of mostly Portland rhododendron enthusiasts, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Graham Sr. were among the supporters. In the Rhododendron Yearbook, 1945, Mrs. Donald G. Graham and Col. Donald G. Graham are listed as charter members.
In 1946 Don Graham chaired the first Seattle Rhododendron Show. A report on the show appeared in the Rhododendron Yearbook, 1947. The show was held in a tent in the Rhododendron Glen at what is now the Washington Park Arboretum. Some 3,000 people attended in ideal weather in that "bower of beauty." Among the judges for the show was ARS President John Henny. The Grahams themselves came away from that first show with a number of prizes, including prizes for 'Loder's White', 'Lady Chamberlain', R. neriiflorum, R. campylocarpum, and 'Lady Roseberry'.
At approximately the same time the Grahams were involved in the formation of the American Rhododendron Society, they were working to establish the University of Washington Arboretum in Seattle. While her husband was busy in the organization of the Arboretum, Juanita Graham was instrumental in setting up Arboretum Foundation Units for volunteers, using her experience in working with the guilds of the Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle.
Don Graham died in 1972, after receiving the ARS Bronze Medal for "his organizing efforts and continuing support." Juanita Graham, at age 97, still lives in the Graham home. The Graham garden still exists and is maintained by gardeners but is "past its prime" according to son Don. Many of the large rhododendrons have outgrown their sites but are allowed to remain, he said. They are a true reminder of the Grahams' contributions to the ARS and the horticultural community as a whole.