JARS v42n1 - Williamsburg: 1988 - A Historic Convention

Williamsburg: 1988 - A Historic Convention
Sandra McDonald
Hampton, Virginia

1988 Convention logo

The 44th annual meeting of the American Rhododendron Society will be hosted by the Middle Atlantic Chapter in Williamsburg, Virginia, May 11 through 15, l988. Williamsburg, one of the country's great historical, cultural and recreational centers, is located in the heart of America's historyland. The area has a wealth of horticultural attractions, including extensive formal gardens and nearby azalea and rhododendron gardens which will be featured on tours during the convention.

R. 'Williamsburg'
'Williamsburg' was named by Sandra McDonald in honor of the
1988 ARS National Convention to be held at Williamsburg, Virginia.
Photo by Sandra McDonald

The convention headquarters, Fort Magruder Inn and Conference Center, is a state-of-the-art convention facility conveniently located near the historic district and easily accessible from Interstate 64. Special convention discount rates are available only on reservations made prior to April 9. Other motels on York Street and within one half mile of convention headquarters are Ramada Inn East, Patrick Henry Inn (Best Western), Econolodge East and Quarterpath Inn.

Williamsburg is served by Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Virginia, by Patrick Henry Airport in Newport News and by Byrd Airport in Richmond. Limousine and taxi services are available from all three airports. Special fare discounts have been arranged with United Airlines for flights into Norfolk, Richmond and Washington, D. C.

The '88 convention is a blend of horticultural, historical and social activities. It has been designed to provide maximum individual flexibility in the selection of activities and meals to fit varying personal interests, energy and budgets.

Other than lunches included in tours, all meals are "on your own" so conventioneers can enjoy the cuisine of their choice from any of Williamsburg's many outstanding restaurants. Elegant dining facilities in the area include The Cascade's, Williamsburg Lodge Bay Room, the Williamsburg Inn Regency Dining Room, and three eighteenth century taverns, Chowning's, Christiana Campbell's and King's Arms, which present authentic colonial fare in the historic district. Advance reservations are necessary for dinner at these well-known restaurants and can be made by calling up to 60 days in advance. (Reserve early!) Reservations are not necessary for lunch. Many other fine restaurants and fast food facilities are in the area and can be reached quickly by convention shuttle bus or private car, thus giving attendees the choice of a memorable colonial dinner, local specialties, or fast food. Free shuttle busses will provide transportation to several restaurants every evening Wednesday through Saturday.

Throughout much of the convention, a daytime shuttle bus will be operating and will serve the historic district, outlet malls, the Williamsburg Pottery Factory and Merchant's Square, making it convenient for members or their guests to go sightseeing or shopping. This service will be free for all registered participants and available to others for a fee.

Historic Williamsburg and Area Attractions
Williamsburg was the second capitol of Virginia, England's largest colony in North America. (Jamestown on the banks of the James River was the first capitol.) Williamsburg became the capitol after the fourth burning of Jamestown in 1698. The Royal Governor moved the Capitol to a site known as Middle Plantation which consisted of a small village and The College of William and Mary which had been chartered in 1693.

A site plan was made for the new capitol city. The city was named Williamsburg and was begun in 1699. Williamsburg remained the state capitol for 80 years after which the capitol moved to Richmond.

Restoration of Williamsburg was begun in 1926 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Eighty-eight original structures were preserved and 50 major buildings and many smaller buildings were reconstructed on their original sites. All of the major public buildings of the original city plan still exist or have been reconstructed. A living history program brings life to this colonial city. Admission tickets required for most colonial exhibitions will be available at the convention registration desk at a discount from regular prices.

Historic Williamsburg recalls those years when it served as a seat of royal government while a generation of great leaders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other early patriots risked their lives and fortunes to help lay the foundations of the American nation.

Other attractions in the Williamsburg area include The College of William and Mary, second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States; Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle Museum of Art at The College of William and Mary; Jamestown Island 1607 and Jamestown Festival Park; Yorktown and Yorktown battlefields, where the patriots defeated the British; Carter's Grove, Berkeley, Sherwood and Shirley Plantations; Busch Gardens (The Old Country Theme Park); the Williamsburg Pottery Factory; Bassett Hall (recent home of the late John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) built between 1753 and 1756; the Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center; and many other nationally-acclaimed attractions within minutes of the convention hotel. Shoppers can find antiques, handcrafted colonial reproductions and outlet store bargains. Those wanting to include the seashore in their vacation can go on to Virginia Beach, approximately an hour away or to nearby Yorktown or Gloucester Beaches on the York River.

The meeting will feature a variety of tours, all on modern, restroom equipped, air-conditioned buses. Included will be visits to gardens in the nearby localities of Yorktown, Gloucester County, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Richmond. The blooming season is quite long through this area with various microclimates, cooler by the water and warmer inland. Evergreen azaleas are a specialty of the area with many blooming mid to late April and later varieties blooming through May and into June. Most rhododendrons and native azaleas will be blooming from early through late May.

James River Gardens
This tour, offered on Wednesday and Thursday, features three gardens south of Richmond. William Bedwell's garden in Dinwiddie is a one acre woodland rhododendron and azalea garden that was begun 23 years ago as a one person weekend project. Many of his plants have now attained large size under the shade of mature pines, hemlocks and other native trees. The garden has Exbury, Mollis and species of deciduous azaleas in addition to the large leaved rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas. He also has a dwarf conifer collection.

David and Debbie Sauer's garden in Chester has rhododendrons and many evergreen azaleas on 4 acres of sloping land. Azaleas are grouped by hybridizer with emphasis on the Back Acre azaleas, hybridized by B.Y. Morrison after his retirement from the U. S. National Arboretum to Pass Christian, Mississippi. The Back Acre azaleas bloom from mid to late May. The Sauer's also have a complete collection of Linwood azaleas, many Harris hybrids and about one-half of the existing Glenn Dale azaleas which bloom from early April through late May. They have more than 1000 varieties of azaleas.

A. J. (Bert) Shoosmith's garden in Chester is a mature garden with large hollies and rhododendrons, including some 15 to 18 foot plants of 'Janet Blair' and other Leach hybrids and mature evergreen azaleas. Bert Shoosmith is a charter member of the Middle Atlantic Chapter which was formed in 1952. He has been a nurseryman all of his adult life and was also one of the founders of the Virginia Nurserymen's Association.

Richmond Gardens
The Richmond tour, offered on Thursday and Friday, will include the gardens of Rosalie and Lawrence Nachman and Nancy and Leon Swell as well as Maymont Park and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The fall 1985 Journal had an article by Rosalie Nachman "Move It", with photographs of her garden, an intimate artistic creation. There is also an article in the recent fall issue of the Journal about this garden. In her shade garden the several specialties are evergreen azaleas, camellias and ferns and many rare shade plants. Rosalie Nachman's artistic training is evident in the planning and planting of this natural looking garden which is beautiful year round.

Nancy Swell specializes in evergreen azaleas, especially the Robin Hills, and in ferns and miniatures. She grows ferns from spores and is particularly interested in the crested forms. A unique feature of the garden is a sunken patio which allows eye-level viewing of some of her choicest miniatures planted in a bed above the retaining wall.

Maymont is a 100 acre park of gardens, wildlife and Victorian fantasy and a mansion just over 100 years old with nearly 200 species of rare and exotic trees, a Japanese Garden, Italian Garden and English pastoral style of landscaping. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is being developed on property that was an old estate and is now a young botanical garden under the direction of Robert Hebb. The Middle Atlantic Chapter's new rhododendron display garden is being planted here. The garden also is establishing a hardy camellia collection and has an extensive daffodil collection in addition to some rare old trees.

Fruit Garden at Governor's Palace,Williamsburg
Fruit Garden at Governor's Palace,Williamsburg
Photo by Sandra McDonald

Williamsburg Area Gardens
In Colonial Williamsburg we will have special walking tours of the colonial gardens offered on Thursday and Friday conducted by members of the Colonial Williamsburg gardening staff. These will not be the usual tours given by historians, but will be from the gardener's perspective. Visitors wishing to go on historical tours rather than garden tours may purchase tickets from Colonial Williamsburg or at the convention registration desk.

There are over 100 gardens in Colonial Williamsburg. The walking tour will consist of tours of select small gardens as well as the large Governor's Palace gardens. The Palace gardens have been constructed according to supposed original early eighteenth century designs of Lieutenant Governor Spotswood and include shaded arbors, hedges and walls for privacy, gardens and orchards for produce, herbs and fruits, a holly maze and espaliered fruit trees. The Governor's Palace itself is not included in this tour, but is a well-known attraction that should be visited in your free time. All plants used in the historic section of Colonial Williamsburg must be plants that were available to the colonists. Some interesting Colonial Williamsburg gardens besides the Palace garden are the flag garden featuring clipped boxwood; the Taliaferro garden with American wisteria; the John Blair garden; and the Custis garden. The Custis garden belonged to the father-in-law of Martha Custis who later married George Washington. Mr. Custis was the best gardener in Williamsburg and had traded plants with the famous Pennsylvania plantsman William Bartram.

Taliaferro Garden with iris and native wisteria
Taliaferro Garden with iris and native wisteria
Photo by Sandra McDonald

In nearby Yorktown the evergreen azalea collector's garden of Dick and Eleanor Cole will be featured. The Coles both retired from NASA a number of years ago and began azalea collecting in earnest after receiving a truckload of azaleas in appreciation from someone to whom Mr. Cole had explained the workings of a marine compass. Most of the azaleas are grouped by hybridizer rather than color or bloom time and are all clearly labeled. The oldest part of the garden is more than 20 years old, but most plants are younger and the collection is still growing. There are over 2250 varieties growing in this approximately 2 acre garden. Many of the late-blooming evergreen azaleas will be in peak bloom. The Cole's azalea collection is one of the tops in the country for number of varieties of azaleas grown.

One-Half Day Nursery Tour
This Friday morning tour includes 2 garden centers and 1 wholesale grower. Smithfield Gardens specializes in landscaping and has many examples on view. McDonald's Garden Center is a large complete retail nursery and according to some people is one of the best in the country. Lancaster Farms, Inc. in Suffolk is a large wholesale container nursery that propagates and grows large blocks of many different shrubs and flowering plants.

Carter's Grove Plantation 1/2 Day Historical Tour
Not far from Williamsburg, on the James River, is Carter's Grove Plantation which is linked to Williamsburg by a country road that rambles through nearly eight miles of picturesque countryside. The house has been described by architectural historian Samuel Chamberlain as the "most beautiful house in America". President Reagan held his economic summit here.

The main house was finished in 1775 by Carter Burwell, the grandson of Robert "King" Carter, the original owner. Carter's Grove is surrounded by more than 600 of the plantation's original 300,000 acres. Carter's Grove is a historic mansion with orchard, garden and pastures as well as the recently discovered archaeologically interesting site of Wolstenholme Towne, one of the earliest English settlements in the New World, whose settlement was interrupted in 1622 by an Indian uprising. Wolstenholme Towne has been partially reconstructed. This tour will be offered on Friday afternoon.

Deciduous azaleas, Lisburne Garden
Deciduous azaleas, Lisburne Garden
Photo by Sandra McDonald

Lisburne Plantation Manor Morning Garden Tour
Lisburne, located in Gloucester County, is a Georgian style plantation manor, and is the home of Mr. and Mrs. David Peebles. It has 20 acres of gardens and lawns, much of it formal, that feature evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons, boxwood and wild-flowers. Lisburne has been featured several times on tours during Virginia's famous Historic Garden Week. Lisburne is a beautiful garden which is featured in another article in this issue of the Journal . Departures for this Saturday morning tour will be staggered to avoid crowding in the garden.

Jamestown and Yorktown Historical Tour
On Saturday you will discover the "birthplace of our nation" at Jamestown. A costumed guide will lead the tour to Jamestown Festival Park where full scale replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery await your visit. In 1607 the ships brought the settlers of the first permanent English colony in North America. A visit will also be made to Colonial National Historical Park where you can watch craftsmen demonstrate glassblowing, America's first industry, at the site of Fort James.

After your visit to Jamestown you will travel along the colonial Parkway and stop for a catered box lunch "picnic". Then it is on to Yorktown where echoes remain of the final days of the American Revolution. You will visit the Yorktown Victory Center and see a stirring, award winning color film about this famous battle. You will also visit the Yorktown battlefields where the British surrendered on October 19, 1781. You will return to the Fort Magruder Inn around 4:00 with a better understanding of our Nation's origin.

Tidewater Gardens
On Sunday visit the garden of Zelma Crockett in Virginia Beach, located on several wooded acres bordering on Lake Smith. Mrs. Crockett has been active in the Camellia Society though the years. Her mature garden features camellias, rhododendrons, evergreen azaleas, and deciduous azaleas. Rare plants from Dr. Ackerman at the U. S. National Arboretum and rhododendrons from Capt. Richard Steele of the Rhododendron Society of Canada are growing here. Mrs. Crockett has committed much of her lifetime to the development of this garden.

R. calendulaceum
R. calendulaceum , Zelma Crockett's Garden
Photo by Sandra McDonald

Norfolk Botanical Gardens, "The Gardens-by-the-Sea", is 175 acres of gardens run by the City of Norfolk. In April every year the Gardens holds The International Azalea Festival and crowns an Azalea Queen selected from one of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) nations. This year the garden is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The garden features 200,000 evergreen azaleas, 150 rhododendrons, deciduous azaleas and a rose trial garden blooming at convention time and many other plants including 700 varieties of camellias and pieris, magnolias, oleander, daylilies and crape myrtle.

A trackless train ride, taking visitors along the meandering paths, will be included as part of this tour. Boat tours down the canals are available on your own.

A Statuary Vista is lined by eleven, seven foot heroic sized marble statues by Moses Ezekiel depicting pre-twentieth century painters and sculptors. There is a small Japanese garden, holly garden, colonial garden and a lake bordered with azaleas, pieris and rhododendrons. The Norfolk Botanical Gardens adjoins Lake Whitehurst and the Norfolk International Airport. (Attendees having early flight departures from Norfolk can request to be discharged at the airport rather than return to Williamsburg.)

Norfolk Botanical Garden
Norfolk Botanical Garden
Photo by Sandra McDonald

Post Convention Blue Ridge Two Day Tour
This tour will stop for a visit at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, and go on to lunch at historic Michie Tavern, then to the mountain home and garden of Paul James, wildflower expert, in Boones Mill, Virginia, via a trip down the Shenandoah Valley. Paul James' hilltop garden features extensive collections of azaleas, dwarf conifers, viburnums, wildflowers and alpine plants. The group will spend the night in Roanoke and be ready for several hours of walks observing native azaleas, rhododendrons and other wild flowers on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway the next morning. Stops will depend on which areas have the best bloom at the time. Reserve early for this tour, as space is limited.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway
Photo by Paul S. James

Convention Programs And Events
Wednesday Evening Programs
The meeting will open on Wednesday evening with a social hour and welcoming activities and events. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Henry Marc Cathey, director since 1981 of the United States National Arboretum, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C., a 444 acre garden concerned with research, collection, introduction and display of plants. Dr. Cathey's talk is "Crystal Visions: Flourishing Plants and People".

Dr. Cathey, a former president of the American Horticultural Society, has a weekly 2 hour radio show on gardening and horticultural education in the Washington, D. C. area and has done many television shows on horticulture. His presentations are always highly entertaining as well as enlightening.

Thursday Afternoon
Plant and Book Sale Opens
Rare native azaleas, evergreen azaleas and rhododendrons will be featured along with books of interest to plant enthusiasts.

Thursday Evening
Plants To Go With Rhododendrons Andre Viette is a well known horticulturist, author, lecturer and daylily hybridizer, who owned the Martin Viette Nurseries on Long Island, New York, until he moved to Fishersville, Virginia, where he developed Andre Viette Farm & Nursery, which grows over 3000 varieties of perennials for sun and shade. The nursery has developed its own tissue culture laboratory. His talk will be "There's More to a Garden Than Rhododendrons".

Pamela Harper is a well-known plant photographer and garden writer who manages her own commercial Harper Horticultural Slide Library. Her gardening career began in England in 1955 and continued in the United States when her husband's work brought him first to Connecticut then to Virginia. She is co-author with Frederick McGourty of Perennials — How to Select, Grow and Enjoy , a best-selling book in its fourth printing. Mrs. Harper is interested in all types of hardy ornamental plants, has given numerous talks on gardening and has published articles in many gardening magazines. Her talk will be "Companions for Rhododendrons".

Friday Afternoon - Flower Show Opens
The annual flower show will be held in a unique, multi-level setting in the Fort Magruder Inn with judging taking place on Friday Morning.

Friday Evening Speaker and Annual Meeting
John D. Bond, Keeper of the Gardens, Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, England, will talk on "The History of the Rhododendron in Britain". Mr. Bond has been at Windsor Great Park since 1963. Prior to Windsor Great Park he had been at the famous Leonardslee, at Bodnant Gardens (Lord Aberconway's garden in North Wales), and at Hillier and Sons Nurseries.

His horticultural interests include all hardy trees, shrubs and hardy plants used in woodland and wild gardening with special interest in rhododendrons, magnolias, Japanese maples, ferns, hostas, heather and dwarf and slow growing conifers. At Windsor he is responsible for management of Savill Garden (35 acres), the Valley Gardens (400 acres), Frogmore Garden (35 acres), 500 acres of woodland, Royal Lodge Garden and propagation and nursery areas. Recently he has developed the large National Collections of Rhododendron Species, Magnolias, Hollies and Dwarf and Slow Growing Conifers.

After the speaker, ARS President Harold Greer will conduct the annual ARS meeting. Presentation of awards will follow.

Saturday Afternoon Speakers Smorgasbord
On Saturday afternoon at these concurrent sessions attendees will be able to choose 3 topics from 9 different programs by the following speakers:

Dr. Martha Roane, an adjunct professor of Plant Pathology and Physiology at VPI & SU, is a botanist with special interests in the taxonomy of Ericaceae, especially Rhododendron , and fungi, especially Endothia . Her taxonomic studies on the genus Rhododendron have been published in the American Rhododendron Society Journal and other scientific journals. She co-edited the recently published Compendium of Rhododendron and Azalea Diseases with Dr. Duane Coyier. Her talk will be "Our Native Rhododendrons and Their Past, Present and Future in the Garden and Landscape".

David F. Sauer is an artist and photographer who has taught painting for the past 25 years at Virginia Commonwealth University. He started teaching photography in addition to painting after studying with the Ansel Adams School in Yosemite, California. He has extensively photographed and catalogued his collection of azaleas and rhododendrons and shared them with many groups. In his lighthearted presentation, "This Is a Camera", Mr. Sauer will review the basic principles of taking a successful photograph: equipment, shutter speed, film types, lighting ratios, and some basic do's and don'ts for amateur photographers.

Dr. Erik T. Nilsen is an assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the field of Plant Ecophysiology who presently has a grant from the ARS Research Foundation for work on "Mechanisms of water stress tolerance in native rhododendrons and azaleas". Dr. Nilsen was born in Sydney, Australia, the son of a sea captain, and lived for some time in Kobe, Japan, and Oslo, Norway. His early research concentrated on two topics; invasions by foreign plants, and plant responses to stress. It took him to South America, Florida, the chaparral of coastal California, the Sonora Desert of inland California and Baja California in Mexico. His interest in adaptation of plants to environmental stress grew into an interest in rhododendron leaf movements. His talk will be "Patterns and Significance of Winter Leaf Movements in Rhododendron Species".

Rosalie Nachman is an active Richmond plants woman whose beautiful intimate garden will be on tour. She will speak on "Azaleas on the Move", a lighthearted treatment covering the old Indicas and proceeding to the modern Girard and Harris hybrids with a little on their history and the artistic use of their textures in the garden. Mrs. Nachman has a degree in fine art, but discarded brushes and found shovels many years ago. She has taught Ikebana, the formal school of Japanese flower arranging.

Theodore Scott, Jr., is a retired research metallurgist who was with the Massachusetts Audubon Society before retiring to Orange, Virginia, in 1977 to enjoy his hobbies of fishing, birding, botanizing, gardening and photography. The last few years have been spent propagating wildflowers, azaleas and rhododendrons for a woodland garden. Mr. Scott's program will be "Four Seasons Close-up", a collection of slides of natural subjects through the course of all seasons.

David Dean, a retired educator from the Washington, D.C. area, is past chairman of the species study group of the Southeastern Chapter, ARS. He is a collector and propagator of species and hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas and companion plants. His talk will be "Some Outstanding Forms of Azalea and Rhododendron Species of the Southeast."

Edmund Berkeley, Jr., Curator of Manuscripts and University Archivist at Alderman Library of the University of Virginia since 1970, has degrees in history and colonial American history. He is currently overseeing acquisitions, sorting, arrangement and description of the records of the American Rhododendron Society and records of people of note in the rhododendron world for the manuscript collection at the library which is now the official depository for these records. His talk and slide presentation will be "The Archives of the American Rhododendron Society and the University of Virginia Library". This will be an enlightening and exciting talk for all who are interested in the preservation of our rhododendron and ARS manuscripts and records for future generations.

ARS Executive Secretary Paula Cash will present a program on how your society works, a program of special interest to all chapter officers from treasurers to presidents.

Dr. Herbert Spady, president of the Rhododendron Species Foundation will have a presentation on that organization.

Saturday Evening Patriot's Party
This gala party will be a festive conclusion to our convention in historic Williamsburg. Hearty hors d'oeuvres will be served in a colonial atmosphere and will be ample fare for all except those with very large appetites. There will be steamship round of beef, ham biscuits, fruit fondue and many other tasty treats. Enjoy this opportunity to visit with friends and talk about your favorite topic, rhododendrons. The evening will close with an auction of rare plants.

Sunday Morning Breeders' Roundtable
A breeders' roundtable will be held Sunday morning. Dr. Sandra McDonald will be moderator for panelists who will give short talks and take questions from the audience. Participating in the panel will be Capt. Richard M. Steele of the Rhododendron Society of Canada, a hybridizer with experience in both Nova Scotia, Canada, and in tidewater Virginia. He will talk about breeding for winter hardiness.

Dr. Donald S. Kellam of Charlotte, North Carolina, plant explorer and hybridizer, will talk on breeding for year round plant habit and appearance.

Mike Stillwell, nurseryman and hybridizer from North Carolina, will discuss breeding for heat resistance.

Dr. Robert Ticknor of North Willamette Experiment Station of Oregon State University will talk on one of his areas of expertise, breeding for Phytophthora resistance.

Allen Anderson of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, is a hybridizer who will talk about a topic of interest to many, breeding for small size (hopefully hardy and yellow).

Gerry Hankins, a graduate student at University of Virginia will talk on "Jumping Genes", one explanation for flower sporting in azaleas, a theory which won Dr. Barbara McClintock a Nobel Prize for her work with corn.

Well known plant geneticist Dr. August Kehr, hybridizer of azaleas and rhododendrons who is breeding a yellow evergreen azalea will speak broadly on the topic of genetics.

We encourage those wishing to go on the garden tours planned for the convention to register early and list alternate choices since the number of participants must be limited on some tours. Note the savings on registrations and fees mailed by April 1,1988. Reservations will be on a first come first served basis. Bus assignments on some tours will be made as registrations are received; consequently, if you wish to keep your party together, please send your registration forms in together.

The Middle Atlantic Chapter is committed to making the '88 convention one you will long remember. There will be a special services desk manned at all times during the convention to help attendees with any problem or request. If you need any information, clarification, or special service prior to the convention, call or write Barbara Hall, Convention Director, Gloucester, VA.

Join your friends in Williamsburg, Virginia, May 11 through 15, 1988. Enjoy historic, educational and entertaining tours, talks and other activities, all centered on rhododendrons and other plants in the lovely setting of the cradle of our democracy.