QBARS - v19n2 Visitors Welcome at East Coast Rhododendron Display Garden

Visitors Welcome at East Coast Rhododendron Display Garden
Velma Haag, Cranford, N.J.
Chair Union County Rhododendron Committee

Union County Rhododendron Display Garden
Fig. 28.  View in Union County Rhododendron Display Garden at
Surprise Lake, New Jersey.

A visit to the Rhododendron Display Garden at Lake Surprise will be both an education and a pleasure for those who pass through New Jersey on their way to the annual meeting of the Society on Long Island in May. Though the garden is only five years in its development, some of the plants are quite mature, most at blooming age, and more than 1500 plants of 300 varieties of rhododendron hybrids and species are represented. To our knowledge, this is the most extensive collection on the east coast in a public garden, which is open to the public at all times and without charge.

The bloom in the spring of 1964 was spectacular and should be much more abundant this year as the plants are maturing and getting settled in their new environment. The site is mostly an open one, surrounded on the west, north and east by deciduous woodland. It slopes gently to the north and is at an elevation of approximately 500 feet. The air drainage is excellent; the woods afford a fine wind break; and coniferous trees among the rhododendrons add both interest and contour to the garden. The many foggy nights and mornings are an added bonus to the site and the plants are responding well to this situation. The coloration of the bloom is both deep and vibrant, even more than in private gardens only a few miles away at lower elevations.

Among those plants which surprise us is 'Boule de Neige' growing beautifully in full sun and without lace-wing fly. This may be attributed to the heavy soil which is natural to this section of the state. Another noteworthy observation is the compact habit of 'Albert Close' which has come into bloom at a somewhat earlier age than is usually expected with this variety. 'County of York' is enjoying a location with almost full sun; 'P. J. M.' fully enjoys all sun. Both 'Cadis' and 'Disca' are happy in a location with shade after about 2:00 P.M. and are among the most beautiful plants in the garden. There are some varieties which are definitely of borderline hardiness and are not looking tops. Though we may not be proud of some of these, they serve to tell the public that there are some varieties which are not suitable for this area. There are others which need to have a better location and we try to move them to a more favorable spot.

The development of a small rock garden area in memory of Carl Luenenschloss has been made possible by the generous contribution of his wife, Helen. We are pleased to remember Carl in this most suitable way. He had loved and grown rhododendrons for many years, had been a founder of both the New Jersey and Mid-Jersey Chapters and the Display Garden. He had been especially interested in the Display Garden and had planned on contributing much time to its development in his retirement years. In addition to this area in his memory, fellow co-workers and friends contributed funds for many other plants which were planted in near-by areas. These plants were added to the garden in the spring of 1964. The rock garden plants include the dwarf forms of racemosum and keiskei , impeditum , intricatum , 'Ramapo', 'Rose Elf', 'Morheim Beauty', 'Blue Diamond', 'Blue Tit', and hippophaeoides , the regular form of keiskei is planted nearby. 'Sphinx', a plant which Carl named, will be planted in the area as soon as it is available.

As with the development of any garden there have been some problems and we hope to be able to solve them to a degree of satisfaction. The first winter presented a deer problem which we had not anticipated being as extensive as it turned out to be. Book references indicate that rhododendrons are poisonous, so we concluded that the deer would do little harm. They had been a considerable nuisance with Taxus in the park nursery; so we were in for a great surprise.

First they helped themselves to the buds on the aromatic rhododendrons such as carolinianum , minus and 'Windbeam'. They also ate the buds and branches off the dogwoods and the entire branches of a Pinus nigra . Then they started on the large leafed rhododendrons and ate off the terminal leaves, leaving the buds. The plants located near the woodland were the ones to be eaten first; and many were so badly denuded that they could scarcely come to life in the spring.

That first spring saw little bloom in the garden because hundreds of buds were removed in order to try to save the plants. The problem has been fairly well solved by the erection of snow fence which surrounds the entire garden from October first to May first. This four foot fence is supplemented with two wires strung from post to post about 1' and 2' above the fencing. These wires are decorated with strips of white cloth, which move with the faintest wind. The moving white cloth seems to be an effective deterrent and we have had little deer damage since. The fence on the woodland side of the garden remains throughout the year for several reasons: to keep the pedestrians from walking through the garden, to reduce labor involved in changing twice a year, and to keep the deer back even in summer.

Parts of the garden have had poor drainage and we hope to have corrected this problem. The undeveloped part of the garden was re-graded. The areas which had already been planted had hundreds of holes bored with a power auger to a depth of two feet and the holes were filled with sand. This remedy to the situation was suggested by Dr. Flannery of Rutgers University who observed a barrier in a core of soil taken from several areas in the garden. He explained that the barrier had been caused by fine humus which had settled to the bottom of the cultivated soil. We believe this procedure will solve the drainage problem in this area.

The Union County Rhododendron Display Garden, located near Lake Surprise, Mountainside, N.J. is a joint project of the Union County Rhododendron Committee of the New Jersey Chapter of A.R.S. and the Union County Park Commission. The Committee provides the plants with funds contributed for that purpose. They design the garden and label the plants. The Park Commission provide the site and plant and maintain the garden. It is located in the Watchung Reservation which is a woodland tract of 2000 acres. There is ample parking areas near-by and the Trailside Museum and Science Center provide an auditorium where the cut truss show is held annually. The 1965 show will be held May 15 and 16 from 1:00 to 5:00 P.M. and is free to the public.

The April 15, 1961 Bulletin, page 98 tells of the beginning of this garden. A new road map showing detailed approaches to the garden from highways and a landscape map of the garden showing location of rhododendron varieties are available by writing to the Secretary, Union County Rhododendron Committee, 372 Dogwood Way, Mountainside, N.J.

An article in the October 15, 1962 issue of the bulletin tells the first varieties planted in the garden. Those varieties and species which have been added since then include:

'Albert Close' 'General Grant' 'Red Head'
'Album Grandiflorum' 'Goethe' 'Robert Allison'
'Album Novum' 'Goldsworth Yellow' 'Rose Elf'
'Album Splendens' 'Graf Zeppelin' 'Roslyn'
ambigumn 'Hanna Felix' 'Russautinii'
'Amethyst' hippophaeoides 'Henrietta Sargent'
'Amphion' 'Hockessin' 'Scintillation'
'Annette de Trafford' HTS 271A (Henry T. Skinner) 'Sir James'
'Annie Dalton' HTS 271B 'Skyglow'
'Atroflo' impeditum 'Slocock White'
'Beaufort' intricatum 'Smirfort'
'Belle Heller' 'Joseph Martyr' 'T. Court'
'Betty Hum'e (NY 165) 'Kate Waterer' 'Turkish Delight'
'Blue Tit' 'Katherine Dalton' 'Van Wilgin's Ruby'
'Bosutch' keiskei vernicosum
'Bramax' keiskei , dwarf 'John Walter'
'Brandywine' keiskei x pubescens 'Wheatley'
campanulatum 'Lee's Best Purple' 'Woodlawn'
'Catagla' 'Lee's Dark Purple' Dexter Hybrids:
'Catagla' x wardii litiense NT Botanical Garden,
'Catawbiense Boursalt' longesquamatum No. 3, B3. 11, 15, 18, 19.
catawbiense Compactum 'Luciferum' 31, 76, 86, 108, 109, 110,
chapmanii 'James Mackintosh' 152, 6, 13, 16 (Dex. Purple),
caucasicum Compactum 'Madonna' 35, 50, 94, 174, 203,
'Chesapeake' micranthum 180, 199, 213, 215
'Chionoides' 'Midsummer' Beinecke Dexter Hybrids:
'Christmas Cheer' 'Morheim Beauty' No. 13, 15, 103, 104, 126
'Coplin's White' 'F. Moseley' Willard Dexter Hybrids:
'Cornell Pink' 'Mrs. Charles Pearson' No. 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
mucronulatum 'Mrs. Holford' Dexter's Favorite
'Cosmopolitan' 'Mrs. P. den Ouden' Dexter Pink, large flower
'David Gable' 'Mrs. P. D. Williams' Dexter Pink (SAE #1)
'Decatros Pink' 'Myrtifolium' Dexter Orchid
'Direcktor Desiderius Hjelm' nikko-montanum Brown #14
'Doncaster' nikko-montanum x fortunei Boulevard #1, #3
'Duke of York' 'P.J.M.' SAE #14
'English Roseum' ponticum Morris #2, #3
ferrugineum 'Prince Camille de Rohan' Scott #1
fortunei x Madonna 'Pygmalion' Everett #20
Gable's Pink #356 'Queen' SAE #5
racemosum , dwarf form Dexter Sdlgs. from John Wisner
racemosum , tall form Bosley Dex. Hybrds: #1009,
Ramona 1035, 'Brown Eyes'