Conference Notes From The 1953 New Zealand Rhododendron Association
At this, our Annual Conference, may I extend to our new members and to those who have not previously attended one of our meetings, a very hearty welcome and hope that you will enjoy the proceedings which will take place during the next few days.
The newcomers may not be aware of the fact that it has been the custom of the Rhododendron Association to hold its annual meetings alternately in the North and South Islands which gives members an opportunity to see many of the well known gardens in New Zealand and so judge for themselves as to what plants will be suitable for their own localities. Also, it enables them to get together and have a free interchange of ideas. As time goes on and more places become available for inspection, the Association will no doubt move further afield and so gain further enthusiasm for the culture of the rhododendrons and azaleas.
The past year has been one that on the whole can be considered a favourable one for these plants. I am fairly safe in saying that the rainfall over the country where they are extensively cultivated has been more than normal and that the growth consequently has been above average. This has been very noticeable in Canterbury where during the summer months numerous heavy and continuous rains were experienced which suited these shrubs and in most cases a very prolific growth has taken place. At Massey College, however, the main rhododendron area was completely covered in water in the severe floods at the end of January. This is likely to prove a serious matter because the water lay around the roots for several days at their most active period of growth.
As there was very little sunshine during the period, a number of bushes have very little flower, but the ones that have are rather better than usual, this is probably because in the South we had a very mild winter with rather less than usual frosts of a severe nature.
Until the springtime no snow fell and this has also been a factor in accounting for the excellence of the blooms of the early flowering sorts. At Homebush the Ilam cross of lindleii sino-nuttallii has every appearance of developing unfrosted flower trusses which has never occurred before, and others such as 'Queen Wilhelmina', lutescens, barbatum and scarlet arboreums have been in perfect form, and of better colour and quality than usual. I hope these favourable conditions are being experienced in other parts of the country. R. giganteum has seed capsules which appear to be forming normally and I hope to have seeds of this fine species for distribution later in the year.
It is pleasing to hear of the increased interest in the growing of rhododendrons which is taking place throughout the country and our Association I think can take a certain amount of credit for this development. Our membership is still growing, there being 150 financial members this year and numerous enquiries are coming in from people who are anxious to join us.
This increase in membership has definitely made the work of the Association more onerous and I am glad to say that Dr. Yeates has been able to get someone to assist him with the clerical work at Massey College and I am sure we all hope this arrangement will continue so that the work in connection with the Association will not fall too heavily on him.
The question of supplying members with plants has been one of the main objects of our Society and we do hope that those who have not received their quota will take the first opportunity to do so. A good supply of Kingdon-Ward's seedlings from his earthquake expedition are now available. It is one of our principal projects to distribute good and new varieties of rhododendrons to members who want them, also to give to public bodies some which may be available after members' requirements have been satisfied.
The work of grafting scions of some of the very best varieties which were flown out from England is now coming to fruition and a few of these very fine types are now available for distribution to members and at the same time a further stock of them has been propagated at the College.
A large number of seedlings have also been grown and I am still of the opinion that we should endeavor to obtain seeds from many of the very best species which are grown in Great Britain and grow plenty of plants for members here.
In this connection the question of supplying public bodies with surplus stocks from the Association's plants has been very favorably received by both the Christchurch and Dunedin city reserves departments, the Superintendents of whom are very willing to co-operate with us in this scheme. We could also, I have no doubt, make exchanges with other importing bodies, such as the Pukeiti Trust Board which has stated its willingness to cooperate in this way. (Plants have been dispatched to Rotorua, Whakatane and Dunedin Botanic Gardens.)
It is pleasing to note that the Pukeiti Trust has made good progress in their undertaking during the past year and we are looking forward to the time when this Trust will have a very fine rhododendron park in a very suitable locality.
Members will be glad to know that Ham is being very well looked after and most of the rhododendrons are doing very well and it has been a very good year there.
During a recent visit to Dunedin it was very pleasing to me to see how the planting of rhododendrons has increased during the last year or two in the Gardens there, some 500 having been planted out during the last year. These two instances alone will give members some idea as to how interest is growing in their culture. Private individual members also, are continually increasing their plantings and as the bushes come to maturity throughout the country people will realize what a wonderful horticultural asset we .have- in the culture of rhododendrons and azaleas.
Several meetings of the Council have been held during the year and I would like to thank those members of the Council who have come quite long distances to attend these meetings and the work they voluntarily have done for our Association.
Our finances are in a good position and we should be able to import more plants from England by way of scions or seeds as the opportunity occurs. It is interesting to note that several recent importations of plants have been successfully made into this country in spite of the stringent regulations, that have come into force recently. It seems from our previous experience that one of the principal factors in the shipping of rhododendrons is to see that their wood is fully matured before being shipped.
Another point which has been noticed by those who are planting new untried hybrids is that it is not wise to condemn them on account of the colour of their flowers which are produced in their first years. In several cases what has appeared to be a very dull and uninteresting bloom on first appearance, may change as it matures, or have a much deeper or richer colour the following year. Such species as falconeri sometimes comes out as a washy magenta colour when first flowering and finally reverts to a very nice creamy colour which is quite worthwhile.
I would again draw attention of members to the valuable work that has been done by Dr. Yeates for the Association, at Massey College, and by his assistant, Mr. Henderson, who between them have been able to propagate such a fine stock of plants for us. The thanks of our Association are due to them as well as to the Board of Governors at Massey College who have once again allowed us the privilege of the use of their hot houses and gardens for the growing of our rhododendrons and azaleas.