JARS v42n1 - President's Column - A Growing Spirit

President's Column - A Growing Spirit
Harold E. Greer, Eugene, Oregon

It has been my pleasure this fall to attend and speak to a number of chapter, district and regional meetings of the American Rhododendron Society. It has been delightful to see such a spirit of excitement and enthusiasm in each of these groups as they seek more knowledge of rhododendrons and azaleas, the plants we consider so special. These opportunities to gather together and discuss plants are definitely educational events, with much knowledge gained by both the old and new member. But, they are even more, they are a chance to meet new acquaintances and renew old friendships. From each of these meetings comes a feeling of being a member of a great group of people. I sense a new and positive attitude in the ARS, an attitude of growth and excitement.

The Western Regional Rhododendron Conference in Ocean Shores, Washington was an outstanding meeting which was very well attended. Thanks to District Three in western Washington for hosting this successful event. In the Eastern Region, the District Conferences were also well attended meetings. What I want to reiterate is that everyone gains much from being part of these meetings. If you have not taken part, you have missed something. Or if you have attended the meetings, but have never had the opportunity to be a part of organizing a meeting, do join in, you will find it an enjoyable and rewarding educational experience.

Most of all, don't miss the 44th National Convention in Williamsburg, Virginia next May. It promises to be something out of the ordinary for anyone interested in rhododendrons or azaleas. Some 900 of you attended last year's National Convention in Eugene, Oregon. Williamsburg promises to hold even more delights for the rhododendron and azalea enthusiast, so you'll sure want to be there. Make your plans to attend now.

Your Board of Directors has been busy trying to improve the ARS and make it responsive to your needs. One recent decision of the board was to authorize the purchase of a new computer system to speed the keeping of membership records so the Executive Secretary can better serve you.

The Board is also looking for ways to spread knowledge of rhododendrons and azaleas to you as members and to the outside world. One useful way to do this is through the Society's slide library programs. Dr. David Williams, who is in charge of this important area, is seeking to improve and expand the programs in the library. He is looking for new programs, so do contact him if you can help. And, if your group has not taken advantage of using the slide library for programs for any gardening meeting, I invite you to do so.

A newer and very popular area in entertainment and education is the video tape. While there are a very few video tapes in the "slide" library, this seems to be an area worth expanding and your board is looking into the production of video tapes usable for the members, chapters and national educational television. What better way to get the words, "rhododendron" and "azalea" out to the world than via television.

The rhododendron in the world at large is suffering an identity crisis. Everyone knows what a rose is, but what is a rhododendron? Have you ever noticed how often the word rhododendron is misspelled? At the Western Regional Conference in Ocean Shores many businesses had "Welcome Rhododendron Society" on their billboards, and each one was spelled differently, but seldom correctly. While most people knew that a rhododendron was some kind of a flower, they knew little beyond that and wondered what people would have to talk about at such a conference. It's time we spread the word. And, don't forget azaleas because they are rhododendrons too.

I again ask each and every one of you to get out there and promote the Society. Become involved in a chapter, or form a new chapter if there isn't one in your area, but most of all be a crusader for new membership. Don't forget to give a gift membership to friends or relatives, they will enjoy and appreciate it and you will be helping the ARS. You will find that becoming involved with ARS is a two way street, the more you put into it, the more enjoyment it will return to you!

Feel free to contact your officers in the Society, myself especially, we're here to serve you.