JARS v41n1 - 1987 Convention Of The ARS

1987 Convention Of The ARS
April 30-May 3, Eugene, Oregon

Harold Greer, Curtis Huey and Gordon Wylie

Rhododendron and gardening enthusiasts will descend on Eugene, Oregon to attend the 43rd annual meeting of the American Rhododendron Society, to be held April 30 through May 3,1987. The conference headquarters is the Valley River Inn, overlooking the scenic Willamette River. This year's annual meeting begins the day after the Azalea Society of America Conference, the latter being the first held on the West Coast. Many of our friends in ASA and others with horticultural interests will join us for the ARS meeting.

Valley River Inn.
Valley River Inn
Photo by Harold Greer

The Eugene area has long been a center of rhododendron devotees. The contributions of collectors such as James Barto, Del and Ray James, Ruth and Marshall Lyons, Dr. Carl H. Phetteplace and Edgar and Harold Greer will be found growing in many gardens. These plants and many more will be seen at the annual spring show and during tours to many beautiful gardens in the area. Some of the well known rhododendrons selected or developed here include R. davidsonianum 'Ruth Lyons', from the collection of James Barto; 'Trude Webster'; 'Crater Lake'; R. yakushimanum 'Yaku Angel'; 'Sugar and Spice'; 'Apricot Nectar' and 'Hallelujah'.

R. 'Crater Lake'
'Crater Lake', Carl Phetteplace hybrid
Photo by Harold Greer

The Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area has a population of about 200,000. It features a wide variety of cultural and recreational interests and activities. Located at the southern end of the Willamette valley, it is within one hour from magnificent public beaches to the west and the crest of the scenic Cascade Mountains to the east. Transportation needs are well served by Interstate 5, and the airport, a regional facility is only minutes from the convention headquarters.
The convention committee has designated United Airlines as the official carrier for the conference. As a result, substantial fare discounts will be given to all those choosing United, a major carrier to Eugene.
The Valley River Inn, one of a very few given the Mobil five star rating, is the Conference Center. Just across the river, additional rooms for overflow are scheduled in the new Eugene Hilton, located in downtown Eugene next to the nationally acclaimed Hult Center for the performing arts. For your dining pleasure a number of fine restaurants in the area provide variety to suit every taste.

R. yakushimanum
R. yakushimanum , Eugene Rhododendron Show
Photo by Harold Greer

The annual spring show will be held at the Valley River Center, an outstanding covered shopping center newly redesigned with a European flair. Thousands of visitors are attracted each year by the brilliant color and plant displays during the show's two day run. One can shop, dine, view and discuss rhododendrons while enjoying one of the largest and finest rhododendron flower and plant exhibits in the country. Visitors will be impressed with the variety and quality of the show.

For those who wish to tour gardens, parks and nurseries, several opportunities are available. On Thursday, April 30, there is the coast garden tour, an all-day trip to Florence, Oregon, and up the rugged and spectacular coast. In route, view dense stands of native R. macrophyllum with its lovely pink flowers. A stop will be at the Willard Thompson Nursery, one of the larger commercial nurseries in the state.
About 1961, Willard Thompson was operating a logging company when health problems necessitated a lighter job. Since he and his wife Margaret had always enjoyed plants and had 145 magnificent acres, he decided to start growing plants as an easier job. He began propagating apple and other trees. A neighbor had been to England, bringing back a number of plants including what became a beautiful specimen of the then less common 'Elizabeth'. The Thompsons were given cuttings and soon their interest turned from apples to rhododendrons. This neighbor also had a number of rhododendron crosses that were flowering for the first time. So back home the Thompsons went, and when their few rhododendrons started flowering, they tried their hand at hybridizing. This led to a number of named hybrids, including the spectacular 'Ring of Fire'.
About 12 years ago, their son and daughter-in-law, Roy and Evelyn, joined their endeavor to create an outstanding nursery. The nursery is largely self sufficient. Trees cut on their land are run through their mill to satisfy building needs. Their water supply is developed from springs on their property. According to Willard, his greatest accomplishment is to "finally" bud a plant of R. proteoides which will flower this spring!
A stop will also be made in Yachats at the Garden of Jim and Janice Gerdemann. As a professor of plant pathology in Urbana, Illinois, Jim developed an interest in rhododendrons and found it a challenge to grow those too tender for the climate in Illinois. After his retirement, he moved to Yachats to a protected piece of land that is nearly frost free. Again, he accepted the challenge of growing rhododendrons, this time those not normally adapted to the coastal Oregon climate. With the help of his wife Janice, he has succeeded in creating a luscious garden from the Maddenii Series and others generally considered too tender to grow in his beautiful woodland garden.

An alternative to the coast tour on Thursday will be a tour to four local gardens displaying a variety of hybrid and species rhododendrons, magnolias and companion plants. Participants will find something for every taste, since each garden is different, with a large diversity of plant material.

Magnolia 'Elizabeth'
Magnolia 'Elizabeth', Gossler Farms Nursery
Photo by Harold Greer

In the mid 1960's the Gossler family ran a mint farm on a beautiful tract of land along the McKenzie River. They enjoyed collecting plants of all kinds but began to focus on magnolias and rhododendrons. Continuing to collect the best forms of species and hybrid magnolias, Marjory and Roger, her son, now have the most complete magnolia collection grown in the country, including the newly developed 'Marjory Gossler', a magnolia with luscious pink flowers more than a foot across! They have developed a tremendous display garden with more than 2000 kinds of rare and exceedingly unusual trees, shrubs and perennials. Roger and Marjory now run Gossler Farms Nursery, a wholesale and retail mail order nursery with an extensive catalogue of magnolias and other unusual plants. The nursery and garden of three acres is well maintained and a delight to visit.

R. rex
Curt Huey's award winning R. rex
Photo by Steve Barrett

Building a new home often seems to be the start of gardening and this is the case with Curtis and Beverle Huey. In 1962 they completed their new home on a one acre site on top of a rolling hill south of Springfield. The site was ideal for rhododendrons and through friendships with the late Dr. Carl Phetteplace and other members of the Eugene Chapter, they began to acquire rhododendrons, with a focus on species. Building a small greenhouse, Curtis propagated species from every source, including seed collected in the wild. One can easily recall his having 400 little plants of R. makinoi which he grew until he selected the best one! One of his best plants in the collection is a spectacular plant of R. rex that "always" takes best species in the early show! His acre is now full of healthy and vigorous looking plants reflecting great care. And yes, there are hybrids in his collection, at the insistence of his bride, Beverle.
Dr. David Williams, raised in Iowa and educated in Montana, began growing rhododendrons in 1962. Ten years later, he purchased his present home with an extensive and empty yard that needed to be planted. He was soon a hopeless "rhodoholic" and was collecting every plant he could find. With the help of his wife Barbara and family, over the years he created a beautiful garden. His primary interest is in species, which he considers more unique, though his garden actually contains more hybrids. Dr. Williams is the newsletter editor for the Eugene Chapter and is an avid photographer. He will be heading the slide contest for the national convention. Elsewhere in this issue of the Journal is an article he wrote on gardening in containers, a subject with which he has had much experience.

Gordon Wylie Garden
The Gordon Wylie Garden
Photo by Harold Greer

Some of the owners' experiences in establishing the Wylie garden are the subject of a separate article in this issue. The garden was begun in 1978 with site clearing and home construction. Gordon, a practicing attorney, grew up on a farm which provided substantial exposure to raising food crops. His interest in ornamental gardening is of more recent vintage, and he dates the focus on rhododendrons to the time his present home was built. His wife Linda is an enthusiastic supporter in their gardening efforts.

Tour opportunities continue on Friday, May 1, with a hardy gourmet lunch and visits to three nurseries. Here you will see extensive collections of hybrids and species.

Bowhan Garden
The Tom and Emma Bowhan Garden
Photo by Tom Bowhan

The Bowhans became interested in rhododendrons in the late 1960's. Collecting at every opportunity, their garden soon encompassed about two acres. Emma and Tom began the T.E. Bowhan Nursery in 1969, selling a wide variety of hybrids and species. In recent years, they became interested in evergreen azaleas and now have one of the larger collections on the West Coast. As collectors, they are growing many plants from the late Dr. Carl H. Phetteplace collection. These include Rock No. 138, a member of the Taliense Series, which has not bloomed but has set several buds, perhaps to flower in time for your visit. You will also see some promising plants from their hybridizing efforts that began some years ago.

Greer Gardens
Woodland rhododendron planting, Greer Gardens
Photo by Harold Greer

Greer Gardens is known throughout this country and many parts of the world. In 1952 Edgar Greer retired at the age of 57 from a career in insurance in dry, cold Colorado and moved to Oregon, where he hoped the climate would be warmer. Purchasing a new home on an empty lot, he found it needed landscaping - so off to the local nursery he went with his then seven year old son Harold. Edgar and his wife Esther had always liked plants and had grown a few roses and chrysanthemums, but he had never seen a rhododendron. While at the nursery he saw two plants and asked what they were. "Oh, those are rhododendrons" was the answer. They turned out to be R. ponticum seedlings. One of them, affectionately called Our First, can still be seen in the nursery today.
Though Edgar's interest was primarily in roses, he purchased more rhododendrons, one of which was a 'Cornubia' and a R. mucronulatum from the collection of the late James Barto. Somewhere, Harold, now eight, heard about hybridizing and the next February when these two plants flowered, out he went to try making a cross. Harold still remembers being made fun of for trying such a thing because hybridizing takes years, and no child would retain interest in flowers long enough to follow through on such a project. Of course that first cross did not set seed because it is difficult to cross a lepidote and an elepidote, but other crosses did produce many fine hybrids. By 1961, even though an extra lot had been purchased, a new location had to be found and the current nursery property was acquired. While a few plants were sold, the nursery was still a hobby until after the death of Edgar in 1972, when Harold and his wife Nancy turned it into a full time business.

Hall's Rhododendron Nursery
Stan and Doty Hall's Rhododendron Nursery
Photo by Harold Greer

The third nursery to be visited, that of Stan and Doty Hall, had its beginning in 1963, when the Halls built a new home in Junction City. There was no landscaping and the house was in the center of a treeless lot. As a biology teacher, Stan had some knowledge of plant propagation. Seeing some pretty rhododendrons in a neighbor's yard, he asked if he could have cuttings. He was successful with the propagation and soon had small plants, his first rhododendrons. This success inspired Stan to try his hand in a much larger endeavor through the use of Nearing Frames. One thing led to another, and before long he had 12 frames and fifty to sixty thousand plants composed of 2,000 kinds, of which 600 are species. He has recently transplanted his display selection of species into series, so you can see their inter-relationship.

In addition to the garden and nursery tours, you can view Hendricks Park, the beautiful public rhododendron garden, on your own or by shuttle bus on Saturday, May 2. Located in the foothills of Eugene, the garden contains many fine forms of species and hybrids, along with companion plants. The garden was developed in 1951, when founding members of the Eugene Chapter cooperated with the Parks and Recreation Department to create a garden of rhododendrons and other plants. These local enthusiasts were pioneers in the collection and culture of rhododendrons in North America and their early achievements are represented in the garden's collection.

Conference programs will address a variety of interests and provide much useful information. Warren Berg will keynote the conference on Thursday, April 30 with a presentation on "Rhododendron Exploration in Tibet," the birthplace of many of the species we grow in our gardens. This 1986 exploration by Warren provides a rare opportunity to see magnificent rhododendrons growing in their native habitat and to understand the hardships early plant collectors faced as they collected in the wild.
On Friday evening, Harold Greer will show outstanding slides and discuss the "World of Rhododendrons Extraordinaire." With his background as a collector, hybridizer, noted author, nurseryman and photographer, he is most qualified to describe and discuss the relationship of the genus Rhododendron to each other.
Other programs that follow focus on "how to" and "what with". Informative topics will be presented on establishing and maintaining gardens; hardy rhododendrons; native plants of the Northwest; and evergreen and deciduous azaleas. Dick Dunmire of Sunset magazine will discuss in his unique style companion plants for the garden. On Sunday, May 3, you will be able to chose four topics from ten programs focusing on hands on experiences with plants.
A final highlight of the conference will be Christopher Fairweather, a noted English rhododendron authority, whose topic will cover rhododendrons, companion plants and trees in England and their use in your garden. His interest and enthusiasm for rhododendrons began at Exbury Gardens more than 30 years ago. After an absence to pursue other horticultural interests, he returned to Exbury in the 1960's as manager of the gardens. He is the author of two books, one on rhododendrons and another on companion trees and shrubs. Mr. Fairweather has traveled widely in the study of rhododendrons and other plant materials. Presently he is owner of an extensive nursery and garden center near Exbury. We are fortunate that a speaker with his background and perspective can join us for the conference.

Photographic displays have been added to the convention for your relaxed viewing and enjoyment. Featured will be the products of a number of outstanding rhododendron photographers. In a revival of an old favorite, there will be a photographic slide competition.
Also, there will be a book and plant sale in the convention area. A wide variety of horticultural books will be available, and the plant sale will feature a diverse selection of hybrids, species, and companion plants.
For those who wish to come early, stay on after the convention or have family members who wish to pursue other activities during the convention, the area offers abundant choices. When it comes to outdoor recreation and beauty, few places offer as much variety, as close, as often. Within an hour's drive are magnificent and unique ocean beaches or majestic snow capped peaks. There is untamed wilderness, rushing crystal clear rivers like the McKenzie which flows through the north edge of Springfield, converging with the Willamette just north of Eugene. The rivers abound with fish; and with the fishing season just opened in April, be sure to bring your fishing rod for some of the best fishing in the country. Skiing will still be available on the neighboring mountains for family members interested in the sport. And speaking of sports, Eugene is the jogging capital of the world with beautiful bike and jogging trails connecting the community, from the front door of the Valley River Inn.
If you wish to pursue cultural interests, the University of Oregon is nearby, with its museums, libraries and other cultural activities. The history buffs can visit the Lane County Museum where a delightful collection of memorabilia of the development of Oregon can be seen. Or visit one or more of several outstanding local wineries which are part of a growing Oregon industry.
In addition to the many convention and local activities, conference participants may wish to consider extending their vacation with privately offered tours. Interest generated by this convention has resulted in several tours becoming available with Eugene as the departure point after the convention ends. These tours offer both cultural and horticultural highlights in the Pacific Northwest and overseas. Information is available from the tour sponsors as shown in their publicity.
Join your friends in Eugene, Oregon, April 30 through May 3, 1987. You will enjoy the tours, diverse programs and wide range of activities scheduled for this gathering, the 43rd annual conference of the ARS.