A New Home for Rhododendron Species Foundation
by P. H. Brydon
Fig.18. Site of the new 23-acre Rhododendron Species
Foundation Garden of the grounds of the Weyerhaeuser
Corporate Headquarters near Tacoma, Washington.
Photo by P. H. Brydon
Fig.19. Beyond the slope being prepared for rhododendron
plantings are the three lath houses built for use of the RSF.
Behind the lath houses are a small office and shed
Photo by P. H. Brydon
The Rhododendron Species Foundation is establishing the most outstanding collection of species in America on the Weyerhaeuser Corporate Headquarters Campus at Federal Way, Tacoma, Washington. The Foundation had a modest beginning in 1964 but now the collection has reached a point where, due to an increase in growth and number of new accessions, the plants could no longer be contained within a four-acre private garden. By spring, 1975, over 5000 plants, 330 species, 10 sub-species, 40 species varieties, and 220 clonal forms, will have been relocated in a 23-acre site which is part of the 472 acre campus of the Weyerhaeuser Company. The site is a lovely bit of native woodland, predominantly Douglas Fir with occasional under story trees of Vine Maple and Dogwood. Within the area have been built all the necessary facilities for-propagation and maintenance of the collection. The ultimate effect is to create a woodland garden which will offer pleasant diversion for the uninitiated with the hope that they may learn as they walk, and, at the same time, become an educational experience for the serious student of ornamental horticulture. The various Rhododendron species and other genera, clearly identified, will be most instructive and an arrangement illustrating the probable course of evolution of species is planned for those who have botanical inclinations. Perhaps in time, groupings of outstanding hybrids may be planted in conjunction with their parent species to show how specific characters are modified or accentuated in succeeding generations.
The primary aim of the Foundation is to acquire the best forms of all existing Rhododendron species and display them to their best advantage where they may be available for study and research. There are approximately 1000 species of Rhododendron in nature. Of these, about 400 are hardy enough to grow outdoors in the Pacific Northwest. Fourteen are native to the Eastern United States and three ( R. macrophyllum , R. occidentale , and R. albiflorum ) are native to the State of Washington. A large percentage of the hardier species come from Tibet, the Himalaya, Western China, and Japan where they exhibit a wide range of growth characters. Dwarf species, barely a foot high extend for acres. clothing the alpine meadows with shades of yellow, purple, and rosy pink. At lower altitudes, shrubby specie; dominate the vegetation and seas of yellow, crimson and white paint the hillsides in spring. In the forested areas, tree species are known to attain a height of 60 feet with trunks up to 4 feet in circumference. In the more humid zones, species with the fragrance of spice are found, oftentimes as epiphytes, growing in the crotches of Oaks and Magnolias. Consider the contrast and variations in this aggregation of wild types and think of the recombination of their characters which is possible to the plant breeder! From these wild forms many new hybrids are being created to make tender ones more hardy and hardy ones more lovely.
In bringing this collection together, the Foundation's first consideration was that the species be the best possible forms and to this end, the most famous gardens in the British Isles have been contacted. During the 19th and early part of the 20th century, British gardeners selected and preserved superior forms of species from plant explorations, particularly in S.W. China. These British garden owners have responded generously by offering propagating material from their finest plants. The collection now includes species from Her Majesty's garden at Windsor Great Park; Lord Aberconway's garden at Bodnant, Wales; Exbury Gardens, home of the Rothschilds; and the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and Edinburgh. In addition, material is being received from other private sources, both here and abroad.
The Rhododendron Species Foundation will provide the skilled help to propagate and distribute plants from the collection. They will be responsible for the ultimate arrangement of the species in their locations. They will continue to acquire selected forms, and attend to labeling, recording distribution of available plants, and the solicitation of funds. The Foundation will retain exclusive rights to the collection and all propagations. The Weyerhaeuser Corporation has been most generous in clearing the 23 acres of weed trees and brush. They have built the physical facilities, i.e. a 60 x 30 ft. greenhouse, a 60 x 50 ft. lath house, an office and storage shed. They are putting in the major roads and paths. They are installing water and power. The Foundation is indeed fortunate to have these accommodations at their disposal and it is the hope of our directors that rhododendron lovers will respond to the generosity of the Weyerhaeuser Corporation by assisting financially in the development and maintenance of this outstanding collection.
Since its inception, ten years ago, an unselfish handful of enthusiasts has borne the expense for the development of the Foundation. They have not received any special consideration for their contributions nor have they expected any return other than the satisfaction of helping establish this collection in America. For those who are interested in helping, please contact the Rhododendron Species Foundation, P. O. Box 99927, Tacoma, Washington.