2007 ARS Convention, San Francisco, April 12-15, 2017
World-class public gardens, magnificent private gardens and internationally renowned speakers are on the agenda for the American Rhododendron Society's 2007 annual convention.
The convention, scheduled for April 12 – 15, 2007, in the San Francisco Bay Area, includes three days of exciting tours and inspiring speakers. The Northern California chapters - California, De Anza, Eureka, Monterey Bay and Noyo - of District 5 will be your hosts for "Rhododendrons at the Golden Gate."
The convention committee has negotiated a great deal with the host hotel, the South San Francisco Embassy Suites, located a mile and a half from the San Francisco International Airport. Room rates are just $139 per night (plus local taxes and fees), double or single occupancy, and include a cooked-to-order breakfast, a nightly manager's reception and happy hour, a free shuttle to and from the airport, and free parking for guests who drive or rent a car.
Canadian visitors should find the rates especially attractive this year, given the strong Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar.
But you many not spend much time in your two-room suite with all the tours and activities the convention committee has planned. Things get under way on Thursday, April 12, with a meeting of the ARS board. It's scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and end about 5 p.m. The board will take a lunch break and both the board meeting and the lunch will be open to all members.
During the convention, buses will fan out in all directions from the San Francisco airport to visit public and private gardens in the greater Bay Area.
The first, scheduled for Thursday, heads to San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Park for tours of the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum. Battered by a monster storm in 1995, the Conservatory of Flowers reopened in 2003 after a $25 million renovation. This Victorian jewel is a tropical paradise where you will see its prized imperial philodendron, dating from 1902, among a huge collection of tropical and highland tropical plants.
The nearby Japanese Tea Garden will transport you to a different time as you wander among the carp ponds and azaleas and cherry trees or enjoy a cup of tea on the veranda of the Tea House.
The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a 55-acre preserve of plants from all over the world, including many that no longer grow in their native habitats. Of special interest to convention goers will be the newly renovated rhododendron area, where a number of new species have been added in the past two years.
You may also want to visit another San Francisco landmark, the de Young Museum. The new structure houses San Francisco's oldest and largest art collection and the views from the tower are stunning. Admission to the museum is not included in the tour price.
On Friday, the buses will head west and south to Filoli House and Garden and three private gardens belonging to members of the De Anza Chapter (this tour was fully described in the fall Journal ARS) and east across the bay to Berkeley and Oakland.
In Berkeley, you will visit the University of California Botanical Gardens, located in Strawberry Canyon in the Berkeley hills overlooking the bay. The garden features plants from all over the world. The rhododendron collection is impressive, featuring species of subsections Grandia and Arborea which date from plant collection expeditions to China in the 1930s. There are also impressive subsection Maddenia plants, as well as a score of others, all under a canopy of tall trees, including a large group of Metasequoia. The garden boasts impressive sections of plants native to California, Africa, Australia, and South America, as well as a large cactus collection.
From Berkeley the bus heads to Lake Merritt in Oakland, where you will visit two small gardens in the city's best loved park. The sheltered outdoor vireya garden is said to be the largest vireya collection in the 48 contiguous states. The collection was started by Cal Chapter's Bill Moyles. There is also an adjacent small rhododendron garden of Maddenia species and hybrids maintained by the Cal Chapter.
Lake Merritt is also home to a marvelous bonsai garden. It features a number of interesting trees and shrubs, including some rhododendrons. It also houses the Daimyo Oak, the oldest extant bonsai in the United States, brought from China by Lincoln's emissary in 1863. Some of the plants are very old and all are beautifully displayed in this quiet, peaceful garden.
Cal Chapter member Don Selcer's woodland garden near Lake Merritt features rhododendron species, and some hybrids, grown on a north-facing hillside under tall trees. Many plants were grown from wild collected seed. Vireyas, and plants from Arborea, Maddenia and Grandia subsections are featured, along with companion plants and maple trees. A collection of bonsai and potted ericaceous plants line an elevated deck overlooking the garden.
The final stop on this tour is the garden of Fred Cummings, another Cal Chapter member, in Orinda. This garden, more than 40 years old, occupies a woodsy one-acre site just east of the Oakland hills. An impressive collection of rhododendron species and hybrids, many hybridized by Fred himself, along with a vast array of companion trees, shrubs and perennials, occupy an informal garden setting under huge sequoia trees. You'll enjoy large specimens of big leaf rhododendrons, R. griffithianum, ‘Noyo Chief', magnolias and camellias as you wander through this work of a lifetime.
On Saturday, the buses head north and south for visits across the Golden Gate and in the Monterey Bay regions. The North Bay tour includes a visit to the garden of Tom Jackson and Kathy Grant in Ross that features rhododendrons and bamboos under an unusual canopy of palm trees. A spring forms the focus of the Zen rock garden and the art collection includes works by Viola Frey, Magdalena Abakamowitz and others. The glasshouse, with its granite spa, potted palm and sculpture forms the jewel in this complex but intimate garden.
There will be a stop at a nearby winery where you can eat your lunch and enjoy - for an additional fee - a taste or two of California wine.
Then it's on to Sonoma Horticulture Nursery, a rhododendron and azalea nursery with some 7 1/2 acres of nursery and gardens. There is also a large collection of trees and companion plants. This is also the home of a spectacular dove tree, Davidia involucrata, which is over 70 years old and is registered as Sonoma County Heritage Tree No. 20.
The southbound bus will head over the Santa Cruz mountains to Bay Laurel Nursery near Scotts Valley. This nursery, started by Pete and Laurie Moerdyke in 1977, features rhododendrons, including many big-leaf varieties, along with azaleas, magnolias, kalmias and other companion plants. After lunch, the tour heads to Santa Cruz for a visit to a private garden, then to the University of California at Santa Cruz arboretum. The UC campus was established in the 1960s in the hills above the city and is a cluster of 10 distinct colleges surrounding an academic and administrative core. The arboretum, established on an ancient marine terrace overlooking Monterey Bay, is the setting for the largest collection of southern hemisphere plants in the northern hemisphere.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, dinner programs are planned for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Thursday night gathering features a Pacific Rim buffet dinner, to be followed by a presentation by Michael McKechnie, the director of the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybring Arboretum. He'll discuss the history of the botanical garden, as well as some history of San Francisco.
Friday night dinner features a choice of roast pork, salmon or a vegetarian meal and presentations by two outstanding speakers. Dr. George Argent of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is making the trip from Scotland to tell us something about his travels and travails as a plant hunter. Dr. Argent, the author of the recently published Rhododendron of Subgenus Vireya, is considered the world's leading authority of vireya rhododendrons. Plant pathologist Dr. Robert Raabe, a former professor at UC Berkeley, master gardener and columnist, will talk about rhododendron diseases.
The annual business meeting and awards program will take place Saturday night. Meal choices include a breast of chicken and beef tri tip combination, swordfish or a vegetarian selection. Doug Thomson, curator of the Dunedin Botanic Garden in New Zealand, will discuss the diversity of form and texture that rhododendrons offer throughout the year along with a selection of associated plants to convey a sense of the woodland garden in New Zealand.
And it's still not over. Sunday morning, Frank Fujioka and Don Wallace will moderate the annual hybridizers' roundtable and Executive Director Laura Grant will lead a session intended not just for officers, but for all members. The focus is on developing newsletter and Web site skills among the chapters and their members and the discussion will be led by ARS Webmaster Bob Weissman.
For members staying on in the Bay Area, former Executive Director Dee Daneri will lead a Night Out on the Town so you get a chance to see a bit of the real San Francisco. The adventure begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday when your champagne limo whisks you off to the famous North Beach and an evening that was designed for the Queen of England when she visited. You'll enjoy a performance of the long-running musical "Beach Blanket Babylon" and then enjoy dinner and drinks in North Beach before returning to the hotel in your limo.
Dee will remain in hostess mode on Monday as she leads a three-day post-convention tour to California's North Coast. You'll enjoy San Francisco breakfast pastries and beverages on you way across the Golden Gate Bridge and then stop at Viansa vineyard for a taste of California wine before arriving at Quarryhill Botanical Garden. You can get some real exercise wandering around this garden or relax and enjoy a slower pace.
Either way, when the group is ready, it's off to the North Coast city of Fort Bragg, where you'll spend two nights in Noyo Harbor. You'll be on your own for dinner, perhaps in one of the harbor restaurants, Monday evening.
Tuesday is rhody day with visits to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and to several private gardens. After a busy day, including a lunch rendezvous, enjoy the Pacific Ocean views for dinner.
On Wednesday, the tour bus will wind its way through the Anderson Valley visiting several wineries, all fees included, with California picnics along the way. You'll return to the Embassy Suites Hotel late Wednesday afternoon.
The plant sale will feature a variety of rhododendron species and hybrids, as well as companion plants. A truss show and a photo show are being planned.
San Francisco temperatures in April average 64 for the high and 48 for the low, with some showers possible during the month.
The Embassy Suites is an all-suites hotel and anyone who has traveled to San Francisco knows that a room rate of $139 (plus local taxes and tees) that also includes parking and breakfast is a bargain. It's not uncommon to pay $30 to $40 per day just to park the car! The region's rapid transit system - BART - is accessible at the airport for anyone who wants to spend a little time in the city. And downtown is a bare 9 miles away.
Your California hosts are looking forward to seeing you at the 2007 ARS convention.