JARS v53n3 - Williamsburg, November 5-7, 1999, Eastern Regional Conference

Williamsburg, November 5-7, 1999, Eastern Regional Conference
A Meeting of Minds and Plants!
Sandra F. McDonald
Hampton, Virginia

he Middle Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society will host an Eastern Regional Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, from November 5 to 7. Williamsburg is one of the country's great historical, cultural, and recreational centers. It was the second capitol of Virginia, England's largest colony in North America, Jamestown on the banks of the James River was the first capitol.) Restoration of Williamsburg was begun in 1926 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Eighty-eight of the original structures were preserved and 50 major buildings and many smaller buildings were reconstructed on their original sites. The area has a wealth of horticultural attractions, including many formal gardens in the Colonial Williamsburg area.

Horse and carriage at
Colonial Williamsburg
Horse and carriage at Colonial Williamsburg.
Photo by C. Ray Doggett

The meeting headquarters, Radisson Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center, is conveniently located near the historic district and easily accessible from Interstate 64. Special convention discount rates will be available only on reservations received prior to October 14, 1999. Other motels nearby include Quarterpath Inn, Four Points Hotel and Suites (Sheraton), and the Bassett Motel, a small economy motel.

Williamsburg is served by Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Virginia, by Newport News-Williamsburg Airport in Newport News, and by Byrd Airport in Richmond. Limousine and taxi services are available from all three airports.


An entertaining and enlightening agenda has been planned to please both the novice and the long-time enthusiast. On Friday evening Hank Schannen, chair of the ARS Research Foundation, will give the opening talk on the "Future of Rhododendrons." On Saturday there will be concurrent lectures going all day. George McLellan, who lives in Gloucester, Virginia, and heads up the Middle Atlantic Chapter's Species Study Group, will be speaking about native azaleas and their hybrid swarms. He has explored many areas in the Eastern United States, especially Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, seeking the native azaleas. Various members of the study group have gone along on most of the expeditions at bloom time and seed collection time. The study group has been working on this project for several years.

George Ring will speak about hardiness. After many years of living and growing rhododendrons and azaleas in both hot and cold Fairfax, Virginia, George moved to Bent Mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. This was after his retirement. He is a hybridizer and developed plants for the Washington, D.C., area, and has now changed his focus to plants more suitable to his mountaintop home.

David F. Sauer is an artist and photographer who has taught painting and photography for many years at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. David studied with the Ansel Adams School in Yosemite, California. His topic will be "The New Kurumes." He has been growing the new Kurumes since 1991 when he got a collection from the late George Harding. He has an extensive collection of azaleas and rhododendrons and has photographed and catalogued his collection. The new Kurumes are 33 new Kurume hybrid azalea cultivars that were introduced in the fall of 1983 by the U.S.D.A. National Arboretum. Some 50 cultivars were collected from trips in 1976 and 1978, by Drs. John L. Creech and Frederick G. Meyers and Sylvester G. March to Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.

Dr. John Thornton of Pushepetappa Gardens and Nursery in Franklinton, Louisiana, will speak about heat tolerance of rhododendrons. He has grown and tested many species and cultivars over a period of years and has also has been breeding rhododendrons for heat tolerance. He has studied Rhododendron minus in the wild. His nursery grows rhododendrons for retail and wholesale.

Paul James, a plantsman and plant collector of many species of trees, shrubs, and rock garden plants, will speak on the Delp and Haag rhododendrons. Paul has an extensive collection of rhododendrons, including especially large collections of these two hybridizers groups. He lives in Boones Mill near Roanoke, Virginia.

ARS Journal Editor Sonja Nelson will speak to us about "Landscaping with Rhododendrons" which is the topic of her forth-coming book. Sonja has seen gardens all over the country and worked with many authors in producing our fine Journal. In this process she has learned much about rhododendrons and their use in the landscape. She will share this with us in her talk.

Don Hyatt, who teachers computer science at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, will speak about "Computers in the Garden." Don has led many of his students to the top awards in computer science in the country. He has a homepage featuring his garden and plant collecting expeditions. He is also an artist and has had a love of azaleas, rhododendrons, and gardening since childhood. This unique combination of talents will produce an excellent program.

The banquet speaker is Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery, who will present a humorous and informative program about "Plants on the Cutting Edge" showing use of new and unusual companion plants. Tony Avent is an avid plant explorer having made plant hunting trips to Mexico in 1994, China in 1996, South Korea in 1997, Southeastern United States for Trillium in 1998, and Texas in 1998 for drought and heat tolerant plants. His nursery offers many of his own introductions and plants from other breeders that are new to commerce.

Garden entrance at Lewis Ginter
Botanical Garden
Garden entrance at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Photo by Sandra F. McDonald


Two tours, one on Friday afternoon and one on Saturday morning, to Richmond to see the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden are planned. A magnificent, new building, the Robins Visitors Center, opened in March 1999, and a new three-acre garden is being developed around it. The origins of the garden go back to Bloemendaal, a Dutch word meaning Flowering Valley, which was a historic Richmond residence and model farm of Grace Arents. About fifteen years ago when the garden passed from private hands, the old residence served as headquarters for the new Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Some gardens that have been developed here include the Martha and Reed West Island Garden, Asian Valley, The Children's Garden, Vienna Cobb Anderson Wildflower Meadow, The Cottage Garden, Madeline Livesay Friendship Garden, and the Lora and Claiborne Robins Tea House.

In Williamsburg walking tours of the Colonial Williamsburg gardens and the College of William and Mary campus will be available. The College of William and Mary, chartered in 1693 and the second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, is in historic Williamsburg.

Plantings at Lewis Ginter
Botanical Garden
Plantings at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Photo by Sandra F. McDonald

Plant Sale and Auction

A highlight of the meeting is a plant sale featuring Delp and Ring rhododendrons, McDonald evergreen azaleas, some of the new Kurumes, other evergreen azaleas, native azaleas, many other rare and special rhododendrons and azaleas, magnolias, companion plants and some very unusual evergreen azaleas. A special table will feature "Miscellaneous Treasures." There will be an auction of choice plants.

Hybridizers Roundtable

On Sunday morning there will be a native azalea species program followed by a Hybridizers Roundtable with Dr. Sandra McDonald moderating. Speakers will give short talks followed by questions from the audience. Speakers on the panel will be Dr. John Thornton of Franklinton, Louisiana, who will talk about heat tolerance; Werner Brack of St. James, New York, who has done some breeding for yellow and hardy rhododendrons; Walter Przypek of Yorktown, Virginia, who likes to try unusual crosses and has worked with evergreen azaleas, deciduous azaleas and rhododendrons; and Harry Wise and Dr. Douglas Jolley who will do a joint presentation about the problems involved with raising seedlings and how the MAC Nursery developed as a result of it.

Other Activities

Other activities include a book sale with a great selection of plant books and a foliage show with entries of azaleas and rhododendrons with outstanding foliage, either with fall color, or just lovely foliage, such as Rhododendron yakushimanum . There will also be a photo contest.

There are many activities available for "dragees." Since the ARS Board Meeting will be held on Friday, the Friday tour to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is an especially good alternative to those not involved in the Board Meeting. Other activities on your own include shopping at the outlet malls, finding antiques, hand-crafted colonial reproductions, touring Colonial Williamsburg (admission tickets are required for most colonial exhibitions), and visiting the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, and DeWitt Wallace Gallery in Colonial Williamsburg, and the Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary. Other attractions are Jamestown Island 1607 and Jamestown Festival Park; Yorktown and Yorktown battlefields where the patriots defeated the British; Carter's Grove, Berkeley, Sherwood and Shirley Plantations; Busch Gardens (The Old Country Theme Park), and shopping at the Williamsburg Pottery Factory and at Merchant's Square in Williamsburg. Many fine restaurants are available in the area as well as the ordinary fast food restaurants.

The Chapter will maintain a hospitality room which will be open after the speakers talks in the evenings. Some members' gardens will be available for visits on Sunday.