JARS v9n1 - 10th Anniversary of Polish Ericaceous Plants Group

10th Anniversary of Polish Ericaceous Plants Group
Mieczyslaw Czekalski
Poznan, Poland
Tomasz Anisko
Griffin, Georgia

Despite unfavorable climatic conditions and limited nursery production, rhododendrons, azaleas and other ericaceous plants have become popular garden and landscape plants in Poland over the past 20 years. Partial credit for this development goes to several enthusiasts who founded the Ericaceous Plants Group.

The birth of this group took place at the historic meeting held at the Botanical Garden of the Wroclaw University on Nov. 23,1984. The initiative to organize the group came from scientists representing various academic institutions who declared the need for coordination of research efforts in the area of ericaceous plants and for educating the general public about these plants. An invitation to join the group was extended to all nurserymen, horticulturists, landscape designers and amateur gardeners who would like to contribute to the popularization of ericaceous plants. The number of active participants has steadily increased, and currently the group has around 70 members.

Two major obstacles existed in popularizing rhododendrons in Poland. First was the widespread perception among the public that "these plants are not hardy enough." Second, there was reluctance on the part of nurserymen to produce rhododendrons because they thought that "these plants were too difficult to profitably propagate." Therefore, it has required extensive promotion by the members of the group in popular horticultural magazines and at professional meetings to change these opinions.

The Ericaceous Plants Group was formally established under the auspices of the Dendrological Section of the Polish Botanical Society which provided modest financial and logistical support. Two major activities of the group have been the organization of conferences every other year and biannual publication of the Ericaceous Plants Bulletin . The Bulletin has featured papers presented at the conferences along with other reports, literature review, presentations of Polish collections of ericaceous plants and the nurseries producing these plants. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary, the bulletin was transformed into the Yearbook of Ericaceous Plants and will be henceforth published yearly under the name Erica .

Conferences are organized in various parts of Poland in early June (rhododendrons are in flower). The conference usually lasts two days, the first day dedicated to seminars, demonstrations and discussions and the second day offering tours of gardens, arboreta and nurseries. The sixth conference will be held in 1995 in Bielsko-Biala in southern Poland.

Since its inception the members of the Ericaceous Plants Group have collectively undertaken several projects. Among them was preparation of the bibliography of works on ericaceous plants by Polish authors, which includes over 250 publications so far. A database on ericaceous taxa cultivated in Poland has also been created and regularly updated by the group. Currently, the database includes nearly 140 species and botanical varieties and 400 cultivars of Rhododendron , 80 cultivars of Calluna vulgaris , 50 cultivars of Erica and 100 taxa of other members of this family. Selection of rhododendron and azalea taxa recommended for various regions of Poland was also prepared for nurserymen and landscape designers to prevent disappointment from using cultivars not adaptable to the regional climate. The group also offers its council and expertise to the Wojslawice Arboretum, the best known rhododendron collection in Poland, which has been undergoing extensive reconstruction in recent years. The Ericaceous Plants Group welcomes anyone to submit an article to our Erica yearbook (can be written in English), exchange information, participate in a conference, or become a member (annual membership and subscription is equivalent to $10). For more information please contact Professor Mieczyslaw Czekalski, serving as president of the group, at the Department of Ornamental Plants, Poznan Agricultural University, 159 Dabrowskiego St., 60-594 Poznan, Poland.