JARS v47n2 - From the President

From the President
Gordon Wylie
Eugene, Oregon

In February just a year ago, when preparing this column for the spring 1992 issue, I noted the beginnings of the blooming season at our place. Rhododendron 'Seta' was in full bloom and color was showing in a number of other rhododendrons. Crocus and early daffodils were also providing their bright splashes in the landscape. That very early flowering was the result of an extremely mild winter, and an early warming to spring-like temperatures in our area. This year at the same time, as we near the end of a more normal winter, we are still awaiting the enjoyment of those flowers.
As the season progresses there are many spirited discussions among enthusiasts about blooming times being "late" or "early" by one week, ten days, two weeks ... and so on. Over time we each develop a series of expectations for what should occur as the calendar advances. But nature has no absolute schedule. In reality, these kinds of comparisons are measured against an often mythical average synthesized from our experience.
This past winter in the Pacific Northwest has taught another lesson in the vagaries of nature. Fairly severe weather descended upon us during the holidays, resulting in snow on the ground and temperatures in the teens and down to 10°F one morning at our house. Despite this, I have found no plant damage even among the more tender examples, nor very little if any flower bud damage. The key to this better display of "hardiness" was in the weather preceding the cold spell. Gradually decreasing temperatures had allowed our plants to reach full dormancy. Another point of interest as we progress through spring is the occasional variation in blooming time between different cultivars. Generally the relationship between the varieties is about the same each year, but occasionally a given plant will prove fickle by displaying its flowers outside of the usual synchronization. I suspect some spur of the moment hybridizing efforts result from these divergences.
There is nothing quite like one's own garden. Each is a showcase for the plant interests and preferences in design of its creator. The amount of space available, terrain and weather also play their roles in the gardener's creation. And a garden is an ever changing tapestry over the years as both plant material and the owner's interests and knowledge grow.
As our members know, genus Rhododendron is a marvelously varied group of plants. Hundreds of species originate in varying climes, offering adaptability over a wide range of conditions. Literally thousands of hybrids have multiplied the choices we may make, whether gardening in benign or more demanding circumstances. The areas in which rhododendrons are grown will continue to expand, making these spectacularly beautiful and fascinating shrubs available to an ever widening circle of enthusiasts.
The above is but a small sampling of all that captures our interest as we go about our garden pursuits and add to our knowledge. A virtually endless array of features are experienced and enjoyed throughout the year as we pursue the lore of gardening.
These random musings lead (of course!) to a few comments about the American Rhododendron Society. Since its founding in 1945, the Society has lent major impetus to rhododendrons becoming more prominent in the landscape. A substantial amount of research, and a veritable flood of books, caters to the very visible market we have created. Better information sharing, and certainly most of the hybridization activity, has been largely an amateur endeavor impelled and supported by our membership and the worldwide exchange that permits and encourages. Remarkable achievements indeed by a volunteer organization.
My last article in this space would be incomplete without at least brief reflection on my term as president. It's been occasionally frustrating but always fun and rewarding. Thanks are due all the hundreds of chapter and national officers, directors and committee people who do so much in keeping the ARS going. Special thanks too to all members for being such a great group. Finally to Linda for her support, encouragement and time, the most special thanks of all.