JARS v41n2 - Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden

Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden
Michael Robert
Eugene, Oregon

Rhododendrons and azaleas abound amidst the many beautiful trees and shrubs growing in Hendricks Park. Since its beginning in 1951, Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden has matured and expanded to include more than five thousand flowering and ornamental plants in ten acres protected by the park's forested hillside.

Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden will be a featured garden of the American Rhododendron Society's National Convention in Eugene from April 30 to May 3. Free shuttle buses and tours of the rhododendron garden will be available during the convention.

The Canopy Of Native And Ornamental Trees
The rhododendron garden is crowned by Oregon white oaks. Douglas firs trail off from the park's ridgeline fir forest. Beneath the canopy is a great variety of flowering and ornamental trees.

Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden
Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden
Photo by Michael Robert

The Magnolias
The largest group of flowering and ornamental trees are the magnolias with over forty varieties represented by approximately eighty magnolia trees. Chiefly deciduous magnolias are planted. The most outstanding is the Magnolia campbelli named 'Hendricks Park' form. It is a seedling from the Kew Gardens in England. There is also the large Magnolia soulangiana 'Picture' which brightens the main lawn in the rhododendron garden. Other magnolia varieties include M. tripetala , sprengeri 'Diva', 'Wada's Memory', macrophylla , sargentiana 'Robusta', and many varieties of soulangiana , liliiflora , and kobus .

Many of these magnolias were provided to the rhododendron garden by the Garden Club of Eugene and recent donations from Gossler Farms Nursery have boosted the collection to one of the best public garden displays of magnolias on the West Coast.

The Maples
A variety of maples, including the native Vine Maple Acer circinatum are planted on the edges of the garden. A mature specimen of the Paperbark Maple, A. griseum , stands in the main lawn of the garden and many mature A. palmatum 'Oshiobeni' and small A. japonicum varieties add brilliant fall color to the vistas of the main garden.

In 1975, a donation of fifteen maples from J.D. Vertrees in Roseburg, Oregon extended this collection to include A. campestre , capillipes , ginnala , and davidii . Recent donations have added palmatum varieties, 'Butterfly' and 'Sangokaku' and rufinerve var. 'Hatsuki'.

Other Trees
There is a variety of other flowering and ornamental trees. The crabapple trees form massive clouds of color and other flowering cherries and plums are planted. A large collection of flowering dogwoods include Cornus florida and controversa , kousa , nuttallii , mas and the shrub, stolonifera . Other species of ornamental trees include Cercidiphyllum japonicum , Davidia involucrata , Stewartia mondelpha and pseudocamellia and Styrax japonicum , obassia and wilsoni .

Rhododendron ririei
The smoky purple flowers of Rhododendron ririei bloom
in February, adding bright color to the end of winter.
Photo by Michael S. Thompson

Plants From The Garden's Founders
Many thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas are planted in the garden at Hendricks Park due to the generous donations of individuals and members of the Eugene Chapter ARS, whose pioneering efforts contributed to the international development of rhododendron culture. Beginning in 1951, the original group of fourteen members of the Eugene Men's Camellia and Rhododendron Society who promoted the idea of a camellia and rhododendron garden offered plants to Eugene's Parks Department to found such a garden. The earliest donors to the rhododendron garden included Marshall and Ruth Lyons, Royal Gick, Del and Ray James and Carl Phetteplace. Their donations continued throughout the development of the rhododendron garden.

These pioneers received plants and propagating material from the few other Pacific Coast enthusiasts, from gardens and nurseries in England and from the plant explorers in China, Japan and elsewhere. From these sources they cultivated rhododendrons and selected new introductions.

James Elwood Barto
The early enthusiasts of the Eugene Chapter, ARS, were particularly indebted to James Elwood Barto, at whose farm near Junction City, Oregon, many of them saw their first rhododendrons and purchased the beginnings of their own collections. From 1925 until his death in 1940, Barto nurtured the largest and most outstanding collection of rhododendrons in the United States. Barto was encouraged by Mrs. A.C.U. Berry of Portland and Leonard Raup, a Eugene nurseryman.

Since the founding of the rhododendron garden there has been a special effort to collect and display the plants of Barto; an area of the garden was dedicated to this collection and developed between 1951 and 1958.

Dr. Carl Phetteplace
Currently, the gardeners at Hendricks Park are moving plants from the garden of Dr. Carl Phetteplace, charter member of the Eugene Chapter and the ARS. Phetteplace was a generous contributor to the rhododendron garden at Hendricks Park as well as the Rhododendron Species Foundation Garden in Federal Way, Washington.

The large-leaved R. calophytum pink form, was moved to Hendricks Park by the park's crew in September 1985 from Phetteplace's Leaburg, Oregon, home. This sixty year old plant was first grown at the farm of James Barto.

Phetteplace grew many rare species and selectively hybridized rhododendrons. Among the plants now located at Hendricks Park are his original hybrids 'Abegail', 'Prince of McKenzie', and 'Showboat'. In 1971 the large R. oreodoxa affinity, was moved to the park. Many beautiful, mature species were acquired by the park's gardeners as a recent gift of Dr. Phetteplace's heirs.

Ray and Del James
The plants from Del and Ray James form the largest collection of rhododendrons in Hendricks Park. Beginning in 1963, over one thousand plants were moved from the James' home, which neighbored the park, and a walkway and area of the garden are dedicated to Del James. Many hybrid rhododendrons of Northwest origin were placed at Hendricks Park during this acquisition, including those hybridized by Ray and Del James. Other plants were sent to Crystal Springs Garden in Portland, Oregon, and Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco.

Both Del and Ray James corresponded with C.P. Raffill, curator of the Kew Gardens of England. From 1945 until 1951 Raffill exchanged information and propagating material with the Jameses.

The rhododendron, 'Fawn', which was introduced by James and used as a parent plant for many other hybrids, is now located at Hendricks Park, as is 'Oasis', a hybrid of 'Fawn' and 'Dido'. Other James hybrids in the park are 'Umpqua Chief', 'Tumalo', 'Lonny', 'Skipper', 'Ray', 'Del', 'Charly', and the plant 'Esquire', which originated at the Barto farm and was introduced by Del James.

Recently, the plant named 'Hendricks Park' was registered; this plant was hybridized by the Jameses and named and grown at the park by Ted Trombert, who served as head gardener from 1960 until 1981.

R. 'Hendricks Park'
'Hendricks Park', hybridized by
Ray and Del James, grown at Hendricks
Park and named by Ted Trombert,
garden caretaker from 1960 to 1981.
Photo by Harold Greer

Ruth and Marshall Lyons
There are more than three hundred plants donated by Marshall and Ruth Lyons. From the first plant of the rhododendron garden, 'Rosemary Chipp', which they purchased from Barto, to recent donations, the Lyons family has supported the rhododendron garden and contributed to its improvement.

Plants from the Lyons' garden include their introduction R. davidsonianum 'Ruth Lyons' and hybrids, 'Blue River', 'Exalted Ruler', 'Apricot Nectar', and 'Happy Day'.

An area of the rhododendron garden near the main entrance is dedicated to Marshall and Ruth Lyons and the large rhododendron 'Britannia' from their Eugene home is centered in this island planting.

Dr. Royal Gick
Dr. Royal Gick was another charter member of the ARS. In 1957 following his death, Mrs. Gick improved an area in the rhododendron garden with seating and plants from the Gick's Eugene home, including the magnificent Magnolia campbelli .

From the beginnings of the rhododendron garden until today, generous contributors have provided nearly all of the plants for the garden's development. Other founding contributors include Charlie Thompson, Robin Overstreet, H.R. Allumbaugh, James Bradley, L.E. Clark, Dr. Barnett, William Riddlesbarger, and George and Merle Saunders.

R. 'Avalanche Alpine Glow' R. 'Beauty of Littleworth'
Bright pink flowers cover
'Avalanche Alpine Glow', an early
bloomer at Hendricks Park
Photo by Michael S. Thompson
'Beauty of Littleworth'
displays tall trusses.
Photo by Paul Heard

The Azaleas of Hendricks Park
Included in the donations of rhododendrons over the years are a great number of azaleas. Deciduous and evergreen azaleas are planted throughout the rhododendron garden.

Fine specimens of the native western azalea, R. occidentale , and many azaleas native to the eastern United States are planted, as well as other deciduous azaleas native to Asia, including R. japonicum and R. schlippenbachii .

Hybrid deciduous azaleas are also grown, including many fine mollis, Exbury and Ghent hybrids.

The evergreen azaleas are abundant, including species of R. yedoense and pemakoense and hybrids of indica, kurume and kaempferi.

Many other genera of flowering shrubs complement the plantings of rhododendrons. An exceptional genus is Viburnum and many beautiful and mature specimens are planted, including, V. x carlcephalum, farreri , bodnantense , and chenaultii .

Camellias, witch hazels, pieris, heathers and osmanthus extend the season of flower aromas and blooms. Many hardy perennial flowers and ground covers complete the flora of the rhododendron garden and thrive in this garden of enduring beauty.

Michael Robert is head gardener at Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden, Eugene, Oregon.