QBARS - v26n4 Rhododendron Study Groups

Rhododendron Study Groups
. W. E. (Esther) Avery, Tacoma, Washington

The following, extracted in part from a letter to Mrs. Darts of the Vancouver Chapter, is being published in response to inquiries from various ARS members as to organizing and running a Rhododendron Study Group. While the article is in no way intended as the blueprint for a successful Study Group operation, it does offer numerous possibilities that could be investigated by interested member groups.

"Thank you for your interest in The Seattle and Tacoma Rhododendron Species Study Groups.  I am not serving as secretary of the Tacoma Study Club this year, but am glad to have the opportunity to describe some of the activities the groups are working on in the field of rhododendrons.

Development of the Study Clubs was more a result of other happenings than a beginning of themselves. Many members belong to 1, 2, or 3 other Rhododendron Clubs, and some to other Horticultural Societies. They are people who will seek out information and ideas, and are willing to share plants, plant material, and information with others. Dues are $1.00 a year per person, and money for projects comes from a yearly plant sale.

Membership is loosely defined, and we have no by-laws. We point out the benefit of the seed exchange and the Quarterly Bulletin of The American Rhododendron Society, The Journal of The Royal Horticultural Society - and free seeds from that source, as well as membership in The Pacific Rhododendron Society - which until Mr. Frisbie's death had a program of importing award forms of plants from England, and were distributed by lottery in that group. Also, a few of us go to the meetings of the Seattle Study Club and an occasional lecture promoted by the A.R.S. Seattle Chapter.

Some of the Tacoma Study Club members belong to the International Propagators Society, and two of the men are employed at The United States Agriculture Research Station, at Puyallup. Occasionally someone will go to visit a neighboring chapter meeting.

The Seattle Study Group has a president who serves as program chairman; also a secretary, and a treasurer. Tacoma has the same, with election in May, for both groups. It apparently saves time to have the president be his own program chairman, and also allows a better production of the presidents program for the year of his service.

Part of each Tacoma meeting is an open forum round table discussion with each person contributing current news, trends, scientific fact, personal experience, or they may pose a question to the group. Each member is eventually responsible for a paper on which he has done some research. These may be a presentation on a species series; book reports on early collectors, or large garden developments such as Windsor, in England or Winterthur in Delaware, U.S.; keying - out in flower time; microscope findings; report and showing camera work; photography and microphotography; research reports on chemical analysis of herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers; maps, charts, clippings on the Himalaya area including geography, rainfall, surface soils, anything related to rhododendron plants and culture. The Seattle club has a current project to graph temperature changes and variance in that area.

The Tacoma Study Club has produced a portfolio of information and one is given to each new member. This includes a glossary of terms, sheets of leaf and flower shapes, a propagation and culture sheet, seeding and seed care, a brief story of earlier plant collection in the Himalayas, and a bibliography is to be made available some time this year.

Both groups have purchased microscopes, and these are loaned to the members for one month. The Tacoma group is developing a collection of books, journals, and clippings of horticultural interest. We have a designation of $50.00 for library pursuits, either to buy books, or reprint rare materials. We are also developing a local slide library that includes some micro-photography of R. leaves, hairs, glands, and pollen. $50.00 has been allotted this year for further possible work by two men in the teaching field who have access to better equipment than we can provide. Two active scholarship programs are being used in the Tacoma area. One, an endowment fund of the ARS Tacoma Chapter; the other, administered by the Tacoma Study Club.

Probably the most important clue to the success of the study clubs is the brisk exchange of rare plant material, seeds and cuttings by the members, and the association with others who are making a collection of fine plants. We have a plant exchange every meeting - by lottery - at the modest charge of 25¢, each attending member having brought a plant. Cutting exchanges are the same, except for a lesser fee. Packets of seed are sold outright at 10¢ a generous pinch. All money is put into the treasury toward educational pursuits already described.

Both Study Clubs as well as individuals bought shares in the Britt Smith-Tashi Expedition. This has contributed to the growing and expanding interest in species. Some of the two year old seedlings are beginning to enter circulation among members. Mr. Smith is also working with Dr. Mossman from Vancouver, Washington - mapping and propagating Azalea occidentale from Oregon and California. They have been most generous with seeds and plant material from this project. The Tacoma Rhododendron Study Club also bought shares in John Patrick's Taiwan Venture, and from this have come seeds, information and some small plants.

The funds for these clubs are developed mostly through public plant sales. The Tacoma Chapter of the ARS has allowed a joint sale with them in the spring. The Seattle Study Club became so large, they now hold their own plant sale.

The Seattle Study Club also sponsors "The Early Competition" Rhododendron Show in April. This is a popular exhibit.

All these activities have developed through the interest and the ingenuity of the people involved. However, many years of study was done by a "Long Range Planning Committee" of the American Rhododendron Society, and in the January, 1967 ARS Quarterly Bulletin, there is a fine summary of possible activities. They were presented for the National organization, but could also serve as excellent guidelines for local development.

In summary the success of the Study Clubs can be attributed to:

  • Open membership and contributing members
  • Meeting notices - letter size and with information
  • Portfolio of culture and rhododendron lore for new members
  • Sharing cultural and scientific information - sessions of "keying out"
  • Development of Library - both photograph and books
  • Monthly plant exchange - seed and cuttings in season
  • Scholarship Fund to be offered to members only
  • Programming along Educational lines - BY THE MEMBERS
  • Expedition Share Purchases
  • Public plant sales
  • Public plant shows."