In Memoriam: Warren E. Berg
With a great sense of loss, the rhododendron world is saddened by the death of Warren E. Berg, one of the great plantsmen of this century, on 17 May 2006. Warren died of lung cancer at his Port Ludlow, Wash., home in the company of his family. Warren was born 21 December 1923 in Enumclaw, Wash., where he was schooled, earned the Eagle Scout honor (the first in Enumclaw - he was rightfully proud) and attended the University of Washington. He and Patricia Elarth were married in 1945 and were a devoted couple until Pat's death in 2005. He served as a Navy bomber pilot in WW II after which he was a commercial pilot with Northwest Airlines for thirty-five years before retiring.
Warren was an ardent plant hunter/expedition leader (primarily of rhododendrons) in China, Japan, South Korea, Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, bringing back plant materials for introductions into his noted garden on Hood Canal, Wash., as well as other rhododendron gardens around the world. More than 900 accessions were forwarded to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Wash. Among the most important donations to the RSBG are: R. keiskei 'Yaku Fairy', R. mucronulatum 'Crater's Edge', R. bhutanense, R. kesangiae, R. bureavoides, R. wiltonii, R. hodgsonii affinity, R. flinckii, R. simiarum, R. wasonii affinity and R. wightii. Among his registered hybrids are: 'Berg's Bonnie Bee', 'Berg's Queen Bee', 'Berg's Yellow', 'Ginny Gee', 'Golden Bee', 'Golden Princess', 'Honey Bee', 'Jan Bee', 'June Bee', 'King Bee', 'Patty Bee', 'Peter Bee', 'Too Bee', 'Wanna Bee', 'Wee Bee' and 'Whid Bee'.
Warren was a life member of the American Rhododendron Society and received its highest honor, the Gold Medal, for his service to the genus Rhododendron. He was likewise honored/recognized by award of the Royal Horticulture Society's Loder Rhododendron Cup. He was a generous donor to individuals as well as a leader in the Society and the Rhododendron Species Foundation. Warren produced and gave many programs on his travels and rhododendrons to ARS chapters as well as regional/convention meetings.
With the age of computers, Warren "jumped in with both feet" - while others "upgraded" every few years, Warren upgraded every few months. He was an avid supporter of the Port Ludlow Computer Club and the Club established the Warren Berg Annual Technology Scholarship in Warren's honor Warren also enjoyed beekeeping, archery, skiing, photography and rock collecting.
Warren's garden is now in the ownership of son Chris, and the Olympic Peninsula ARS Chapter is creating a "Warren Berg" section in their Fort Worden garden.
Warren was a true Renaissance man! Many will miss him, but as Kristi O'Donnell (Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens) noted: "He is in good company - the heavenly gardens just keep getting more beautiful!"