JARS v48n3 - Western Regional Conference, Oct. 7-9

Western Regional Conference, Oct. 7-9
Nadine Shanti
Snohomish, Washington

Rumor has it that after an extremely wet summer, Seattle will be in the throes of a beautiful Indian summer when October 7, 8, and 9 roll around. For all of you rhododendron enthusiasts who are planning (pondering?) attending the 1994 Western Regional Conference in Lynnwood, Wash., that will be a real plus. In the Puget Sound area some people argue that there is no such thing as an Indian summer in Seattle. Then sometime in October they look up and say, "My God, this has been a beautiful day." Warm summer temperatures, beautiful blue skies and the joy of the deep golden quality of autumn sunlight in the Puget Sound often take us by surprise.
Because this conference is featuring a tour of the Terry Welch Garden in Woodinville and also the romantic St. Michelle Winery, beautiful days will be a plus that kicks this convention right over the edge into the realm of WONDERFUL!! The 1994 Western Regional Conference "Gardens of the Pacific Northwest" promises to be informative and fun.

Photo Exhibit and Contest
This year the conference will have a first for the Seattle area. One of our favorite speakers and an enthusiastic Seattle Chapter member, Art Dome, has organized a photography exhibition and contest as part of the conference. There are several extremely talented photographers in the area who will be displaying their favorite photos. Art is inviting all ARS photography enthusiasts worldwide to submit their prints for competition.
Photographs must be of rhododendrons or feature rhododendrons and they must be the original work of the submitter. Art has outlined several size restrictions depending upon the class of the entry. Each person may enter up to 12 prints in the competition so start reviewing your best photos now. Classes are composites of 3 to 5 prints, full flower truss, loose flower truss, flower spray, domestic or native landscape, general artistic expression, single plant in domestic setting or native habitat.
There will be a prize for first, second and third "Best in Competition." There will also be a "Sweepstakes" prize for the exhibitor with the most points (one point will be awarded for each exhibit in the competition, three points for first place, two points for a second place and one point for a third place in class competition). The more photos you enter, the better your chances for "sweeping" the Sweepstakes prize. So join in the fun and contact Art Dome regarding where to send entries and other details of the competition.

Expert Speakers
This year's conference has some unique topics delivered by our expert presenters. Our welcoming address will be given by Glen Patterson, an enthusiastic gardener who, like many of us, faces the dilemma of satisfying his passion for collecting plants while creating an harmonious and aesthetic garden design. Glen's beautiful garden in British Columbia, Canada, is an excellent example of the topic of his presentation, "Wilderness Reflections in Our Gardens."
Those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest sometimes are blessed with an abundance of water in certain areas of our gardens. Those with less appreciation for this situation refer to these as "wet spots" and sometimes complain that we have them. Chris Moore, owner of Moorhaven Water Gardens, will show us how having an abundance of water can be a benefit. You will find the suggestions of types of plants to use in this setting and landscaping tips very helpful.
Most of us will admit that one attraction to rhododendrons in our gardens is the fact that they are evergreen shrubs. We enjoy their trusses when they bloom, but quite a few of us choose our plants based on their foliage characteristics. This is frequently the selling point of a particular plant when considering its winter visage. Pat Roome, owner of Pat Roome Landscape Design, Inc., will share her expertise on the variety of shrubs and perennials which provide color and interest in the winter garden. This is the presentation to attend for ideas on how to wake up that hibernating garden of yours!
One of our special treats this year will be the presentation by Scott Vergara, the very knowledgeable director of the Rhododendron Species Foundation and Botanical Garden. Scott began working in the field of horticulture at the age of 7. That is a unique story in itself. Perhaps it is one that we can get Scott to share. Scott's presentation will be a photographic essay examining the environments that specific rhododendron species require for success in a variety of landscape sites. Scott has an abundance of information on site modifications and biological requirements of specific species; this is a must for all species enthusiasts. If you are curious or are anxious to find that unique plant for a "special" place in your garden, this presentation will help you to care for it!
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the water garden is the rock garden. These we usually reserve for those sunny places in our gardens that can be a little on the dry side. As a past president of the Northwestern Chapter of the American Rock Garden Society and Lifetime Honorary Member of the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, Art Dome may have terrific light to shed on this subject. Art's presentation will delineate those rhododendrons that are specifically suited to use in the rock garden and the care that is necessary to assure healthy, happy plants in this setting.
One of the most intriguing areas of study in horticulture is one that stresses patience and creativity: the art of bonsai. Our speaker, Dave DeGroot, has an intense involvement in this art which, coupled with his talents for writing and teaching, have made him a popular bonsai author and lecturer. His specific focus will be on using rhododendrons as bonsai. His discussion will include both hybrids and species which are suitable for this technique, their growth characteristics, shaping techniques and caring for the rhododendrons as container plants.
Cisco Morris, head groundskeeper for Seattle University which is located right in the middle of the very urban Capitol Hill section of Seattle, has perhaps the most timely presentation of the Western Regional Conference: "Fall Garden Jobs." This is perhaps the most important time of the year for our garden care - when we prepare our gardens for over wintering and take steps to encourage full spring blooming. Cisco's presentation will help us organize and "triage" these most consequential steps in garden care.
Any trip to the Pacific Northwest by a rhododendron enthusiast should include a trek through Meerkerk Gardens. For those of us who are limited by time restrictions, the Western Regional Conference will bring the beauty of Meerkerk directly to us. In the very capable hands of Kristi O'Donnell, the Meerkerk Gardens manager, this presentation will enlighten and delight. Our "Walk Through Meerkerk Gardens" will begin as winter transforms into spring. Kristi will uncover the magic felt by the garden founders, Ann and Max Meerkerk, as they tirelessly worked to create their peaceful woodland garden and hybrid test facility. The presentation will then fast-forward to the present to show how our local plantsman, Warren Berg, collected seeds from rare and newly discovered species. Many of these species rhododendrons can be found in Meerkerk's new Asian Garden. The Hybrid Test Garden, a realization of the Meerkerks' dream, is the only one of its kind in North America. It tests 50 new hybrids each year during a five-year cycle. Join us on a walk through the gardens and share the magic of Meerkerk at the Western Regional Conference!

Chateau St. Michelle Winery
Chateau St. Michelle Winery
Photo courtesy St. Michelle Winery & Vineyards

Tour to Woodinville
There will be a bus trip on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 8, to Woodinville, Wash. This is a quick trip across or around Lake Washington to what we natives call "The Eastside." The first stop on our "catered" bus trip will be at Terry Welch's woodland garden. Terry patterns his gardening after that of his father, "a man who knew when to enhance nature's work and when to leave well enough alone." Terry has at this point developed four acres of his father's original 30. In reality, there are four distinct gardens under his care. There is the bonsai collection in which Welch says the gardener "aims to capture the essence of a tree and learns in the doing that everything, including size, is relative." Startlingly simple is the formal Japanese rock garden which is to be dedicated as an AIDS memorial. The English-style garden and the Northwest woodland garden both make use of native plants and some exotics. The ponds, mature vine maples, pines and rare birches ( Betula jacquemontii ) make a striking impression on the visitor's eyes. Terry Welch has wandered through many gardens in his travels and has found great delight in doing so. For this reason he is very pleased to reciprocate and make his beautiful garden available for tour for the Western Regional Conference.
What trip to Woodinville would be complete without a visit to Washington's St. Michelle Winery? Wine making has become quite a profitable art in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the first wineries on the western side of the mountains was St. Michelle. Woodinville has made quite a name for itself with St. Michelle's Johannisberg Riesling, Fume Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon among others. What is unique about this winery is the lovely French style Chateau where the wine is stored and tastings are done on a daily basis. The grounds are quite lovely, and there is a large park near the tasting area that is used for summer concerts "on the green." This will be a lovely setting for the afternoon tasting of exquisite wines and a perfect preparation for the evening banquet which features prime rib or succulent Pacific Northwest salmon.

Gift Shopping
There are many plusses to attending the Western Regional Conference this year. Christmas will not be very far away, and the conference planners have thought of unique plants, gifts and books which can be purchased for those flower enthusiasts in your lives. The Lynnwood Embassy Suites has made their lush lobby atrium available to the conference for gift items and plants. This is a perfect arena for shopping, but if you want more, there is a free shuttle to nearby Alderwood Plaza Mall.
Well, I don't know how anyone could pass up this much fun! Those of you who have read the program enclosed in the ARS Journal probably have noted that there are two skits that have been planned for the Western Regional Conference. I and my partner in these endeavors, Frank Fujioka, have a little mischief up our sleeves. You will just have to come to the Western Regional Conference In Lynnwood, Wash., Oct. 7, 8, 9, this fall to find out what this mischief is all about. See you in October!