Pacific International Rhododendron Conference, 1994
Friday, Oct. 28, 1994, found some 128 enthusiastic rhododendron lovers in, of all places, Burnie, Tasmania, for the Pacific Region International Rhododendron Conference. There were attendees from Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and 36 travelers from the United States. Festivities started off with registration and welcoming reception, along with a buffet dinner.
Saturday, Oct. 29, there was another welcome to delegates and speakers. The first speaker of the day was Dr. George Argent. His subject was "New Vireyas for Cultivation in Milder Climates." It should be noted that the emphasis of the conference was the vireya rhododendron because of the attendance of so many delegates who would find the subject interesting and unusual.
The second speaker was Graham Snell with the topic "Vireyas: The Not-So-Tropical Rhododendron." Next on the program was Jaap van Dorsser, who gave a very graphic and lively demonstration with "Roots: The Support System." This was a program that everyone paid close attention to - they couldn't help it.
After lunch Dr. Noel Sullivan, who is the guiding light and leader of the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, spoke about this garden, which is being developed by the Northwest Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Rhododendron Society. Since its inception in 1983, this 13-hectare garden has seen extraordinary development through much hard work and application of a variety of talents by members of the Society. Dr. Sullivan described the geographical arrangement of the garden in which species rhododendrons and their companion plants are displayed in sections representing various areas of the world, such as Nepal, Japan, Burma, Taiwan, and North America. This presentation was followed by a tour of the garden.
Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, Burnie, Tasmania
Photo by Bob George
In the evening a conference dinner was held. A very nice method was used to get people to meet one another. There were name cards at each seating, with couples seated across from each other at the large round tables. At all later dinners the seating arrangements were changed, so everyone had an opportunity to make new friends.
On Sunday, Oct. 30, the first speaker for the day was Dr. John Rouse with the topic "Sexual and Graft Compatibilities Within Section Vireya and Between this Section and Other Lepidote Rhododendron." Further information is furnished in The Rhododendron , the official Journal of the Australian Rhododendron Society, spring issue, volume 34. The article lists names and results on a whole series of tests and experiments on matching vireya rhododendrons and other rhododendrons such as R. ponticum and R. simsii .
Dr. Elizabeth Williams was the following speaker, and her subject was "Evolutionary History and Speciation in Section Vireya." Dr. Peter Valder gave a presentation on "Tropical Rhododendrons Other Than Vireya."
A slide presentation was given by Warren Berg, "In the Footsteps of the Great Plant Hunters." Warren did a beautiful job of capturing his audience with his wonderful and most colorful program. Bob Malone gave an interesting and thought provoking program on how to handle the present problem of mildew on rhododendrons. His suggestion was to remove the leaves that show signs of damage while the spores are still dormant.
Ken Gillanders gave a program on how seismic plate movements affected the plants we know today. The title of his presentation was "Rhododendron Companions from Gondwanaland." Dr. David de Little presented "Why Breed Gum Trees?" There was an alternative program for attendees to take an all-day coach tour to Allendale Gardens and Circular Head. That evening there was a slide program and general discussion on species.
On Monday, Oct. 31, the entire group traveled to Lapoinya Rhododendron Garden. An 8.5-hectare block purchased in 1974 by Evelyn and Bob Malone is the basis for this garden, which contains a very wide selection of species and hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas, together with a selection of camellias, magnolias and maples. The garden sits against a backdrop of native bush land, which includes large trees and man ferns. (By the way, if you're interested, it's for sale.)
In the afternoon Clive Justice gave a program, "The Role of Public Gardens." Following this, a program "Tasmania's Cool Temperate Rainforests" was presented by Mike Peterson. These forests are dominated by species that are remnant from, or had their origin in the Gondwana era. Some of the pollen and fossil specimens found in the Tasmanian forests date back 100 million years. The last program of the conference was a discussion on "Rhododendrons in the 21st Century."
On Tuesday, Nov. 1, the Tasmanian group planned a post-conference tour to Cradle Mountain with guide, visiting a range of sites and showing a range of Tasmanian endemic plant communities, revealing a history going back thousands of years, with some trees over 2,000 years old.
On Wednesday, Nov. 2, through Saturday, Nov. 5, many attendees participated in an extensive tour of western and southern Tasmania, including a cruise on the Gordon River and a visit to the Hobart Royal Botanical Gardens.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the facilities in Burnie were among the best the writer has seen. The civic center had auditorium, art gallery, reception areas, and banquet facilities under one roof, so it was an easy matter to go from one event to another. The catering and serving of food was outstanding. Much praise must be given to the members and to their families for the hours of preparation that went into the conference and the social events that surrounded the affair. We all had a wonderful time, and the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Rhododendron Society outdid themselves in putting on a super conference.
Bob George, a member of the Cascade Chapter, wrote about Ireland's Howth Castle in the summer 1994 issue of the Journal.