JARS v39n3 - Pioneer Award Presented To Cecil Smith

Pioneer Award Presented To Cecil Smith

In recognition of his pioneering and original achievement in the advancement of rhododendrons in America, Cecil Smith received the American Rhododendron Society's Pioneer Award at the annual meeting, May 4, 1985, at Bellevue, Washington. President, Mrs. Janet Binford, assisted by Mr. Graham Smith, director of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust, New Zealand and Mr. Hideo Suzuki, vice-president of the Japanese Rhododendron Society presented the award which read as follows:

The Cecil and Molly Smith Garden is a reflection of Cecil Smith, the plantsman. He is sensitive to horticultural requirements of each plant, placing each where it will thrive. He has an intuitive sense of design. His hybrids are known throughout the world. His generosity with seeds and pollen have benefited rhododendron growers everywhere. Cecil Smith has a long history of involvement with rhododendrons. He was an early member of the Society, joining just one month after it's founding. He served the Society for many years as a National Director and was awarded the Society's Gold Medal in April, 1976. The Portland Chapter honored him with their Bronze Medal in 1980.

Together with his wife, Molly, he developed one of the finest rhododendron gardens in the country. His woodland acreage near Newberg, Oregon proved an ideal habitat for rare species and choice hybrid rhododendrons. A recent inventory of his collection lists nearly 600 species and hybrid rhododendrons.

Cecil was a subscriber to the Rock and Kingdon-Ward expeditions. Many plants grown from the seed received from these trips still flourish in his garden. His critical eye selected only the best for propagation and as hybridizing stock.

The thoughtfulness of this man is underscored by his hybridization program. Cecil has consistently worked towards developing hybrids that would be hardy in the eastern United States and would be of good foliage and attractive plant habit. His named hybrids, such as 'Noyo Brave' and 'Yellow Saucer', are known throughout the world. Other unnamed hybrids such as his crosses using R. yakushimanum , R. bureavii , and R. rex as parents illustrate the broad scope of his work.

His generosity with pollen, seeds and cuttings is legendary. Cecil has been a regular contributor to the ARS pollen bank and the seed exchange.

Through numerous articles written for the Society's publications, Cecil has been able to share his knowledge with others. He always had time for a discussion with rhododendron enthusiasts, be they beginners or experts.

He and Molly have given scores of visitors a warm welcome to their garden. Tour groups from New Zealand and Japan have joined visitors from Great Britain, Canada and this country in admiring Cecil's skill in growing rhododendrons. As word of the garden has spread, photographers and writers from regional and national publications have come to capture the beauty of the rhododendrons growing there.

Although somewhat reluctant to appear in photographs himself, Cecil has been an avid photographer and his rhododendron photographs have appeared many times in Society publications. His slide collection has been the basis for many programs for the Society and other horticultural groups.

Cecil's interest in rhododendron species led him to become a founding member of the Rhododendron Species Foundation at Federal Way, Washington. As a member of the RSF Board of Directors, he has helped guide the development of their botanical demonstration garden. Many of the Foundation's plants came directly from the Smith's garden.

Recently, Cecil and Molly again displayed their generosity and desire to share their love of rhododendrons with others, as they made it possible for the Portland Chapter to purchase their garden property. Through this acquisition their garden will be preserved for the benefit of all Society members and friends.

Cecil Smith Pioneer Award presentation
President Janet Binford presents award to Cecil Smith.

Editor's Note: The Pioneer Award, established in 1981, is given to a person who has made a significant contribution toward growing Rhododendron in America. The award may not be given more often than once in two years. Joe Gable received the first Pioneer Award presented in 1982.