JARS v45n3 - Western Regional Conference, Oct. 4-6

Western Regional Conference, Oct. 4-6
Steve Gangsei
Olympia, Washington

District 3 of the American Rhododendron Society puts out the welcome mat this October 4-6 to members around the world. We invite you to attend the 11th Annual Western Regional Conference in Olympia, Washington.

Olympia is less than a one-day car ride from all points in Washington and most of Oregon and British Columbia, and it is a trip weaving through some of nature's most beautiful country. Of course, if you choose to fly in from other parts of the world, you will not be disappointed when you reach convention headquarters at the Westwater Inn.

Washington's capital city is a growing area, full of things to do and well within reach of the best of natural wonders. That includes rhododendrons of all kinds, colors, sizes, and shapes. District 3 intends to show you the best our area has to offer.

Washington State Capitol
Washington State Capitol, Olympia
Photo by Lori Gangsei

We open the convention Friday evening with internationally known speaker and rhododendron expert Harold Greer. He will show you some of the new hybrid rhododendrons and whet your appetite for next spring's blooms.

Saturday morning begins with a bang, featuring British Columbia's Jack Lofthouse. Well known for his "lofty" multi, multi-flowered hybrids, Lofthouse has brought us '1000 Butterflies', 'Viennese Waltz', 'Pink Petticoats', and 'Lady of Spain', to name just a few. He will surely have some exciting new plants to show.

We continue with Dr. Ned Brockenbrough, a Seattle physician who has spent years developing hybrids of wonderful colors. These include 'Nancy Evans' and 'Bambino'. To get the few, Dr. Brockenbrough has grown the many and selected the best.

Hybridizing may seem like so much guesswork, but our next speaker is doing his best to turn it into an exact science. Dr. Pat Halligan is a dentist who likes plants as much as teeth. He can tell us a lot about how to get the results we expect from crosses.

We end the morning with a presentation by noted plant explorer Warren Berg. He'll present his findings from his latest trip to China, just completed in June. Berg and his small party scoured an area not explored by Westerners since the Rock expeditions. Some 50 species of rhododendron grow in this part of China including many members of the Taliense series. We will be among the first to see this exciting report.

In the afternoon we have a great tour planned. It includes a visit to Briggs Nursery, one of the country's largest rhododendron growers. Another stop is Heather Acres in Elma. Here most every kind of this wonderful, blooming ericaceous relative is on display. We will also stroll through the Washington State Capital Conservatory. This year-round hot house provides shelter for all kinds of tropical and rare plant species. Finally, everyone will link up at the Olympia Brewery which has been operating for almost 100 years. You can take the tour, sample the beer, or soda if you prefer, and relax a bit before returning to the hotel for the evening's fun.

Saturday night you will have the chance to spend the evening with friends at our social hour and banquet. Then prepare for a treat. Our keynote speaker is Wilbur Bluhm, a former staff chairman of the Marion County Oregon Extension Service. He currently serves as executive secretary/treasurer of the International Plant Propagators Society's western region and was the 1990 Award of Merit winner from that body. His program will feature native rhododendrons and their companion plants and promises to be excellent.

Do not sleep in too late Sunday morning or you will miss some great clinic presentations. For the novice, we will cover the basics of rhododendron growing and how to make your rhododendrons flourish. An Extension specialist will be on hand to describe diseases that attack our plants and explain how to stop them. Oregon's Dick "Red" Cavender will give us the scoop on vireyas, and Alice Knight, our hostess from Heather Acres, will dazzle you with the variety of heathers and heaths available.

If you have ever wanted to try hybridizing, but did not know where to start, Clint Smith of Benjamin's Rhododendrons will have the answers to your questions and photos to illustrate the process and make it easy. Seattle's Art Dome will talk on ericaceous companion plants. You may attend a session on rhododendron photography. Also, Olympia's only Master Composter will show how to make excellent garden mulch from organic waste materials.

Rounding out the morning will be Eleanor Stubbs presenting a program on evergreen azaleas. Britt Smith will discuss the search for Rhododendron occidentale , the deciduous species azalea. Dennis Bottemiller, horticulturist for the Rhododendron Species Foundation, will give tips on cutting propagation of rhodies. He has experience with the toughest rooting varieties. Finally, water garden designer Chris Moore discusses plants to use in ponds and water displays.

Dare we say, "But wait...there's more!"? District 3 chapter members are working hard to see that this is a memorable event for all. The Westwater Inn will be full of displays to excite your senses. Rhododendron foliage, blooming vireyas, educational exhibits, and more await your gaze. Photo contest entries will be on display, daily door prizes abound, and don't forget the plant sale!! Some new goodies will be available and some old favorites, plus species and vireyas too. Come early...come often!!

Once our convention is over, please do not feel you have to rush home right away. Take a day or two and travel out to the Olympic Peninsula, the sea shore, Mount Rainier, or the San Juan Islands. Our area has so much to see and do that you could not possibly see it all, but why not try? The members of District 3 are proud of where we live and the beauty around us. Will you please take some time to enjoy it? You will be glad you came.

Steve Gangsei is the publicity chairman for this year's Western Regional Conference.