QBARS - v17n3 New York Chapter Gold Medal Presentation Dinner

New York Chapter Gold Medal Presentation Dinner
Betty Hager, Albertson, N.Y.

Dr. Clement G. Bowers, Sidney Burns, Paul Vossberg
Fig. 23.  New York Chapter - A.R.S. Gold Medal presentation dinner.
Left to right, Dr. Clement G. Bowers, Pres. Sidney Burns,
Mr. Paul Vossberg.

On May 26th, 1963, eighty-three members and friends gathered at the Salisbury Club, East Meadow, L. L, N. Y. to honor two distinguished horticulturists, Dr. Clement G. Bowers and Mr. Paul Vossberg.

Flower arrangements, created by Mrs. H. C. Schlaikjer, featured a huge perfect truss of HS-2 Dexter Pink, with Kurume "Snow" azaleas at the base, along with Taxus brevifolia . Other arrangements consisted of colorful Ghent azaleas. Mr. Spencer Prentiss of Salisbury Park also sent a bouquet of various rhododendrons growing in the gardens at the Park. Mr. Willet Titus, who worked with Mr. Vossberg and Dr. Bowers 34 years ago at the Hicks Nursery, made the introductions.

Dr. Bowers remarked about Mr. Vossberg: "I've known Paul for 37 years. He had then been in rhododendron work for about 13 years, making a total of 50 years. Paul, Willet Titus, and myself all got the same inspiration about rhododendrons from the same old maestro-the late Henry Hicks. In Paul you have a chemist-horticulturist who brought into rhododendron culture a really scientific mind-much needed by the rhododendron world. Knowing that rhododendrons bloom only a few weeks and the rest of the year are foliage plants, Paul has developed a fine sensitivity in judging the merits of different plants. He has developed an eye with scientific exactitude. No one in this country can judge the individual rhododendron, especially the old timers, as well as Paul. He can identify plants better than anyone."

President Sidney Burns then read the citation to Mr. Vossberg and presented to him the Gold Medal of the American Rhododendron Society.

Mr. Vossberg then spoke, explaining that horticulture had always been a natural thing for him. "My father was a wonderful teacher and showed me Mother Nature. Later when I had a chance to change from chemistry to horticulture, it was fine-I've been happier for it."

Speaking about Dr. Bowers, Mr. Vossberg said: "He came to us in Westbury around the thirties-he looked at things like a painter does-he brought to us a new line of genetics-he was an inspiration to us!"

Mr. Vossberg then introduced Dr. Bowers saying very little information was available to anyone interested in rhododendrons in the twenties. Then came Dr. Bowers' book in 1935 with its great detail of every aspect of rhododendron culture and propagation. He mentioned the excellent geographic maps on the inside covers showing the place of origin of all the species of the world. "I believe Dr. Bowers has done more for the interest of rhododendrons than any other man I know of."

After reading the citation to Dr. Bowers, President Burns presented to him the Gold Medal of the American Rhododendron Society.

Dr. Bowers: "All I can say is a very hearty thank you for this honor, which I know I do not deserve. My book was written because I wanted to get information for my own work-there hadn't been a book printed on rhododendrons in this country for 60 years. Having gathered all this information, I decided it was best to have it published."

Dr. John Wister then spoke saying he was glad to see Dr. Bowers and Mr. Vossberg receive recognition for all the things they have done over the years. "I first met Clem at the New York Botanic Garden, then later I met Paul when he organized some 16 trips to rescue some of the good varieties of the Dexter plants. Paul Vossberg has an absolutely uncanny eye! The first place we went to was the N. Y. Botanic Garden (Clem, Paul, Henry Skinner and Donald Wyman). We picked out a plant and Paul took cuttings to his nursery and propagated it. Eventually the original plant was gone at the Botanic Garden, but Paul had the stock and introduced it as 'Scintillation'. If it hadn't been for him, we wouldn't have that wonderful variety! This was the first one he picked out the second is called 'Westbury' - Mr. Howard Phipps' seedling. 'Meadowbrook' has been mentioned, but not 'Roslyn', a beautiful blue. The plants you see here on the table (HS-2 Dexter Pink) he rescued from the Everitt place. They are now on the Schlaikjer Estate (formerly Parker). Many of the rhododendrons we saw at the Flower Show today are there because Clem and Paul worked together."

Guy Nearing said: "About 1930 there were a few of us working on rhododendrons-we were a lonesome crowd-the idea of rhododendrons hadn't built up yet. The five of us were Paul Vossberg, Clem Bowers, Joe Gable, Charles Dexter and myself. We exchanged information, helped each other in various ways, trading pollen and plants, helping Clem Bowers with information for his book."

Mr. Fred Rees, President of the New Jersey Chapter said: "Tonight we are the honored guests-for Mr. Vossberg and Dr. Bowers are the fortunate ones -men who are born with those qualities that impel them to seek perfection. On behalf of all those who are not here, may I express appreciation for all you have done."

Mr. Henry Fleming, President of the Tappan Zee Chapter remarked: "Mr. Vossberg is the only taxonomist I know, who when shown a plant to be identified, immediately turns his back on you, looks off into space with a thoughtful expression-and then comes up with the right name! Dr. Bowers is to be complimented for having insight to produce a book that was very much needed in this country-and complimented for his courage to publish such a book, with Paul Vossberg hiding behind one rhododendron bush and Guy Nearing behind another, ready to spring out if they saw any mistakes!"

President Burns welcomed the members of the various chapters, New Jersey, Tappan Zee, Philadelphia, Princeton. He then read congratulatory messages. Excerpts from a few follow:

"It was a pleasure to sign the citations as I have known both these men for many years as authorities in the rhododendron field before I knew there were more than two kinds of rhododendrons, catawbiense -and maximum. May they be eager and active for a great many years."

DR. J. HAROLD CLARKE President, Amer. Rhod. Society

"I first became interested in rhododendrons in the late 1930's. As I look back, I cannot imagine how such an interest could have been satisfied and sustained without "Rhododendrons and Azaleas" by Dr. Bowers, indispensable to anyone who sought an understanding of the genus. It was largely responsible for the adoption of the rhododendron as a major horticultural preoccupation by a whole generation of enthusiasts.

"A source of immediate practical advice, guide to Long Island estates, and conservator of rare rhododendrons, from my earliest knowledge of the connoisseurs, is Mr. Paul Vossberg. It was he who first paraded the wonders of the Dexter hybrids to the stunned admiration of visitors who had never seen anything like them. To him there were attributed powers of witchcraft and black magic because he was putting roots on the stems of rhododendron twigs. His ability to identify almost any commercially available rhododendron 'any time of the year, any place seemed miraculous. His expert judgment and encyclopedic knowledge have an impact on both professional growers and amateur hobbyists all over the East.

"I think the dual presentation this evening is a most happy affair, honoring as it does two elder statesmen in the world of rhododendron-pioneers who made the path so much easier for the rest of us!"


Professor Gustav A. L. Melquist of the University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn. stated that a number of rhododendron enthusiasts were planning group meetings in Conn. and later may possibly form an A.R.S. affiliation.

Mr. Nathaniel E. Hess, past President of the New York Chapter, made the final address of the evening: "We should give a good round of applause for Sid and Clara Burns for taking on the work of this chapter and working almost single-handedly for a couple of years and bringing it to this state it is now in-with its wonderful feeling and progress. I'm proud to see it."