Letter to the Editor
Sherla D.M. Bertelmann
Hawaii Chapter President
On behalf of all the members of the Hawaii Chapter-ARS, I sincerely thank you [President Mike Stewart, ARS Board] for the recent grant received from the ARS Endowment Fund for our current vireya garden planting at our local Panaewa Rainforest Zoo.
This project has been a passion and dream of the Hawaii Chapter. We have been physically working on it for over three years. Because many of our members are limited in different ways, such as physically, time-wise, and distance of travel, we have had to push back our completion date. Now with the extra funds, a phone call to a contractor may hurry things along and bring the first stage to an end. We are all looking forward to our favorite part, planting and tending our vireyas. It is a most interesting experience working on the zoo garden. No visitor walks by without stopping to look at the plantings. Because there is usually something in bloom, the pause is often accompanied by an "ahh". Mainland visitors are often in "shock" at seeing a rhododendron growing in Hawaii. Of course, this is just the moment when one of our workers will strike up a conversation about our "semi-tropical" rhododendrons called "vireya."
We have erected a fairly large size information board at the zoo. On one side we have our proposed garden design and on the other side we have information material on the species already in the garden. The possibility of what can be done through the garden is unlimited. I can see bringing awareness to not only the species but to the loss of much of their homelands as an important part of education. People often feel good when they know they can be of help in saving a species from extinction. It is our hope our vireya garden will bring awareness, cultural know-how and much more to many, many people in the years to come. Our first goal, though, is to complete the garden beds. Once that is done, and allowed to season for a short time, the vireya species bed will be well on its way.
We look forward to the 2004 Western Regional & Board meeting here in Hilo next September and to meeting and sharing with you all our zoo garden progress.
Our sincerest thank you.