Dedication of a Rhododendron Garden
Josephine Wylie Drips
Sunday May 24; 1953 was a big day in the annals of our four-year-old Wy'East Garden Club, for on that day dedication ceremonies were held for our new Rhododendron Garden located at Zig Zag Ranger Station in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
The occasion is notable first because it represents a cooperative effort, with the United States Forest Service furnishing the land (approximately two acres), a landscaping service, and general supervision and protection; and with our Garden Club responsible for plant materials, planting, and garden upkeep. Notable also is the fact that it is an effort to establish hybrid and species rhododendrons in a mountain area, elevation 1,425 feet, where the native Rhododendron californicum grows so abundantly.
Conceived a little more than a year ago as a roadside park beautification project to be built around rhododendrons, the idea grew until, like a snowball headed down hill, we found ourselves in February of this year with a U. S. Forest Service "Use Permit" to the land in perpetuity; a rhododendron planting plan to fit the already beautifully landscaped plot which is surrounded by towering Douglas Firs; and most importantly with what seemed to us like a gold mine in rhododendron stock-nearly 100 plants. Ground-breaking and planting of the first rhododendrons took place on February 20th, in the rain, but with twenty-two willing spade-handlers and planters. Subsequent plantings brought the number planted to 165, nearly all of which are blooming-size plants. Seventy young plants are being kept in a nursery adjacent to the garden, so that our wealth in rhododendrons adds up to some 235 plants. Our landscape plan calls for the eventual planting of between 500 and 600 plants. Additional plantings of trees are being made to give background to the rhododendrons by District Forest Ranger James P. Langdon of Zig Zag Station who also, incidentally, drew the landscape plan for us.
It seemed fitting that we should have a day of dedication in which we could show our appreciation and pleasure and also formally mark the first blooming season of our rhododendrons. Since under the terms of our contract with the United States Forest Service we hold the land in trust "for the enjoyment of the general public", it further seemed that we should make this occasion of opening the garden to the public a very important one. We did this by planning a program which included representatives of the Forest Service, the Oregon Federation of Garden Clubs, and the American Rhododendron Society; and we gave the dedication program the widest possible publicity.
The entire community cooperated in rounding out the program-our local churches and their pastors and our school. Only the weather man did not cooperate and a dismally chilly rain prefaced the events of the afternoon. However, the sun came out during the program and the rhododendrons in the garden made up for the weather by being their blooming best. We prefer to think that quite a few stayed away who would have come had it been pleasanter for a trip up into the mountains, but a few more than a hundred persons enjoyed the occasion with us...Those of us who had worked hard toward this day found it heart-warming to say the least.
The program: Reverend Thyra Strand, minister and builder of the Chapel of the Hills in our area, spoke appropriate words of invocation for a new garden, asking that it continue to be blessed and grow in beauty for the enjoyment of all who pass this way. The Chapel of the Hills Choir of teen-agers sang "Bless This Ground", adapted from the song, "Bless This House", further giving the dedication a deeply religious feeling. As president of the Wy'East Garden Club, it became my duty to explain the garden and its purpose, and to formally dedicate it on behalf of my garden club. This I did and furthermore expressed the hope that it might give continuous and everlasting enjoyment to all who visit our great recreation area, one of the most popular in the world; and most particularly that it might be a joy to those who love rhododendrons.
Speaking for the Mt. Hood National Forest and the Forest Service, Supervisor Lloyd R. Olson and District Ranger James P. Langdon "accepted" the Garden for the enjoyment of the general public. Both said very nice things about the progress and development up to date that had been made by our garden club women. Mr. Langdon expressed the hope that the grounds might develop into a garden spot where people would come not only to see rhododendrons, but also the native and the rare shrubs and trees. He spoke of the very rare Dawn Redwood which he is growing in his own yard and plans later to transplant into the garden where there is already a very fine specimen of the giant Sequoia. And he pledged us his cooperation in the development of the garden to this end.
Mrs. L. W. Franks of Redmond, Oregon, speaking as President of the Oregon Federation of Garden Clubs offered congratulations for enterprise and initiative wrought in the creation of the rhododendron garden. She said that service to the community is a most important part of our garden club work and had been exemplified in the project here undertaken. She expressed the hope that other garden clubs over the State would be inspired through our example, and promised that we would be given an important spot on the program of this year's Federation of Garden Club's convention to tell about our Rhododendron Garden.
It was highly significant for us that the American Rhododendron Society was represented by it President, Mr. C. I. Sersanous; and his appearance on our dedication program made it possible for us to publicly acknowledge the help given us all along by the A.R.S. through its president and secretary, Mrs. Ruth Martin Hansen. (Mrs. Hansen visited our garden twice previously, giving us valued advice, and further putting us in touch with a great fund of reference material, besides giving us a full program on rhododendrons at a meeting.) Mr. Sersanous expressed surprise that so much had been done in so short. a time toward the creation of a rhododendron garden of importance, and congratulated our workers on a garden well-begun indeed. He spoke briefly of the Rhododendron Test Garden in Portland, inviting all to its displays, and said that the development of our mountain garden would be watched with interest.
Although our Wy'East Garden Club set up a budget for the Rhododendron Garden at the beginning of the year, ear-marking $300.00 for its development, by far the majority of the plants we now have were given to us. (Mr. and Mrs. B. J. Esch alone gave us 100 plants from their nursery.) So we took this occasion of dedication to publicly express thanks to our Garden's donors, including also the American Rhododendron Society, Mr. B. F. Lancaster, Dr. William M. Grashorn, Mr. J. B. Whalley, Mr. and Mrs. Christ Kochlin, Mr. Frank Spybrock, Mr. and Mrs. John Lake, and Mr. and Mrs. Albert M. Closner...All in all, it was Thanksgiving Day in May, and we were most happy to give thanks for our very valuable Rhododendrons!
The dedication program came to a close fittingly with Father William Delplanch of nearby St. John's Chapel speaking the words of benediction and fitting into them prayers for the garden and those assembled at its dedication...Yes, it was a heartwarming experience, at least for the writer and a few others. And the feeling remains that the new Rhododendron Garden in the mountains began to fulfill its destiny in "enjoyment" in that moment.