Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden, Eugene, Reaches its 50th Anniversary
An Important Botanical Resource of Significant Historical Interest
John M. Hammond
Prestwich, Manchester, England
Gordon K. Wylie
There are few sounds which are as evocative as the whistle of a southbound freight as it cuts the clear spring air and reverberates along the Willamette Valley floor, its echoes rising and falling as they reach up to the belt of Douglas firs along the forested ridge line of the seventy-eight acre Hendricks Park. Quickly the echoes are diffused amongst the 250-year-old trees, to be replaced by the distant rattle of steel on steel as the freight cars snake towards Springfield; but the sounds remind us that there are wider affinities between the railroad, the rhododendron pioneers and the park.
In 1906 Martha and Thomas Hendricks realised the need to set aside land in its natural state f or the development of a park, and they purchased forty-seven acres along the Southeast Hills forested ridge line which was deeded to the city of Eugene, Oregon, for use as parkland. Within three months the city purchased an adjoining tract of thirty-one acres and the entire property was dedicated as Hendricks Park.
Rather than being cleared for vast grassy areas as so often happens, Hendricks Park remained essentially in a natural state during the first forty-five years following its dedication. Seemingly this was partly due to a reluctance by the city fathers to spend money on the property, but certainly it was a factor proving propitious for the rhododendron garden to come. An over-story of the Pacific Northwest's ubiquitous Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii 100 to 250 years in age, Oregon white oaks ( Quercus garryana ) and Californian black oaks ( Quercus kelloggi ), the latter at the northern extremity of their range, provided a protected environment for a "forest" experience within the city limits. David Douglas, the explorer, whilst travelling south along the Willamette Valley in 1826 on his first West Coast expedition, noted the low hills were covered in oaks, and today the remaining oak groves still provide a homely character to the valley. Exotic deer and elk were kept at the park in pens built by the city and remained an introduced feature from 1912 until 1972. In 1938 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed a rustic picnic shelter of rock and large timbers in the park. The WPA was a federal program of the Depression era to employ persons on relief and resulted in the construction of thousands of public buildings, bridges and roadways all around the country. But meanwhile other events were taking place which would eventually converge and provide the means to create a rhododendron garden.
Around 1925 James Elwood Barto, a carpenter by trade, began growing rhododendrons on his homestead on the High Pass Road to the west of Junction City, just a few miles to the north of Eugene. Barto was one of three North Americans to join the Rhododendron Association at the time of its formation in London, England, in the spring of 1927. George Fraser of Ucluelet, British Columbia, had introduced Joe Gable of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and James Barto to E. J. P. Magor of Lamellan Garden in Cornwall, England, earlier that year. An exchange of correspondence commenced between Barto and Magor who "introduced" Barto to Lionel de Rothschild of Exbury and many other key rhododendron personalities in England who between them sent Barto seed, pollen and, perhaps most importantly of all, they provided him with the encouragement and advice needed to raise species seedlings and to hybridise. Letters followed with the great collectors of the day and in doing so Barto was soon on the subscription lists of Forrest, Ward, Rock, Hu and Wu and Wada. At this time the ranks of rhododendron enthusiasts in the United States were rather thin but, nevertheless, there was help at hand to get him started from Mrs. A. C. U. Berry of Portland and Leonard Raup, a Eugene nurseryman.
Photo courtesy of Hendricks Park
An interesting aside is Barto's method of "pollinization" as described in a letter written shortly before his death. "My method is to use the foreign pollen covering the stigma completely and afterward re-cover with pollen of the same flower. I believe a chemical or some unnamed action is set up when the self pollen is placed over the foreign pollen." He claimed such crosses resulted in plants that were clearly hybrids.
At the time of Barto's death on December 22nd, 1940, thousands of rhododendrons grew in the woodlands around the homestead. In later years many rhododendrons originating from Barto were to become the foundation of the plantings in Hendricks Park, whilst the widespread dispersal of the majority of the other plant material from the homestead provided the basis for hybridisation work by a number of other pioneers in later years.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s a group of men interested in gardening began getting together for discussions about their hobby. At first they avoided creating by-laws, record keeping and women; indeed, one participant purportedly remarked that if he could not attend in slippers and old clothes he wanted out! But in 1944 Bill Riddlesbarger, a local attorney, proposed a more formal organisation and the result was the Men's Camellia and Rhododendron Society with a membership of eighteen. Notably the name rather pointedly continued exclusion of the ladies, though they were apparently allowed some participation, as the notes of a 1947 Camellia Show refer to flower arrangements contributed by several members of the gentler sex. Bill Riddlesbarger's organisational skills were to benefit the society as have those of other lawyers who have been chapter members down the years. Most of the early members were primarily interested in camellias, including Carl Phetteplace who with the passing years became president of the American Rhododendron Society.
Amongst the founding members there were a few who were strongly interested in rhododendrons, and one of these was Delbert W. James, "Del" to his friends, a locomotive engineer on the Southern Pacific Railroad which enabled him to travel during WWII restrictions, and meet others with similar interests. He was a pioneer collector and hybridiser, and together with the others of the group with an interest in rhododendrons they promoted the formation of, and in due course, joined the American Rhododendron Society at the time of its 1945 organisation in Portland. As happens on occasions, nature unexpectedly struck a cruel blow during the winter of 1949-50 when the severe frosts killed most of the camellias being grown around Eugene, so the primary interest of the Men's Camellia and Rhododendron Society turned to the latter genus. Del James, together with his wife, Ray, a gifted plantswoman in her own right, were a major influence behind a proposal in the fall of 1950 that the society create a rhododendron garden in Hendricks Park. The Eugene City Council eagerly agreed and some preliminary work on the garden was accomplished before the onset of winter that year. Planting began in earnest the following spring in an area later to be designated the "Barto Walk" with plants originating from James Barto's homestead. In 1952 the American Rhododendron Society admitted the Men's Camellia and Rhododendron Society, still under its original name, as a chapter of the society. Finally, in November of 1955, the men relented and officially admitted ladies as members, changed their by-laws accordingly and also changed the name to the Eugene Chapter, American Rhododendron Society. The year 2001 marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden, and it will be an important feature of the ARS Annual Convention, returning to Eugene for the fourth time.
Another fascinating historical connection of the garden's development must not go un-remarked. Del and Ray James, having found the name of C. P. Raffill in a Royal Horticultural Society Rhododendron Yearbook, began a longtime correspondence with him, which developed into a friendship that included the exchange of plant material. As Assistant Curator at Kew Botanic Gardens in England, Charles Raffill was an extremely knowledgeable plantsman with a fondness for irises. During their long interchange the Jameses sent him many examples of Pacific Coast iris. So it came to be that the Jameses sought Raffill's advice on the proposed Hendricks Park location for the rhododendron garden, describing the site in detail. He responded that it sounded a good choice for a rhododendron garden. And indeed it is, probably one of the best that might be found along the 100 miles of the Willamette Valley between Portland and Eugene.
Whilst the first plants came directly from the Barto homestead, where his surviving family still lived, many others came from members' gardens which at that time contained many cultivars that had originated from Barto. Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the collections of plants in the park is that, whilst the majority of plant material has been donated, a significant number of the individual plants originated from the gardens and nurseries of the Oregon pioneers in the field, many of these having been acquired from the Barto homestead by the early enthusiasts in the Eugene area. These enthusiasts acted as "caretakers" for the plants, many of which were originally grown from seed or cuttings from England, China or Japan, and where appropriate these were used by the members in their own hybridisation work. As the years passed, the enthusiasts or their relatives donated this plant material to the park and this legacy continues to be enhanced as the majority of plants within the garden result from such donations. A "caretaker" of a different form was Ernest V. Allen, the first caretaker of Hendricks Park Garden. The city placed Allen in charge of the garden in 1955 and he brought to it a dedication and love of plants that nurtured the expanding collection until his untimely death in September 1962. During those early years, with the help of Del James and the city parks staff, Ernie raised some 1,800 rhododendrons from cuttings and seed in a small greenhouse on the grounds.
Ernest V. Allen
Photo courtesy of Hendricks Park
Today the park is an internationally recognised rhododendron garden, a key West Coast resource for the horticulturist or garden lover alike. Around fifteen acres of the land are developed and most of the primary rhododendron plantings of about twelve acres are situated on a basaltic knoll which provides excellent cold drainage. Its elevated location and extensive mature tree canopy proved to be most beneficial during the infamous and devastating two week freeze of December 1972 when temperatures dipped well below zero Fahrenheit. A significant percentage of rhododendrons all over the Pacific Northwest were killed outright; many others suffered severely with bark-split, but losses at Hendricks Park were relatively modest. Nevertheless, the forces of nature can be unpredictable as was the occasion in early-March 1999 when two windstorms felled thirty-two Douglas firs and caused chaos in parts of the garden. The first storm dropped two trees amongst the rhododendrons and the remainder were uprooted by the second storm on March 2nd, a couple of the trees scoring a direct hit on the historic picnic shelter, destroying the wooden building but leaving the monolithic stone fireplace intact. Unfortunately, a large Rhododendron oreodoxa affinity was struck by an uprooted fir and the hope is to rehabilitate the part of the plant which remains. Michael Robert, Head Gardener since 1981, has had the unenviable task of managing the clearance work in the garden at a time when there were other priorities in mind. Michael has carried out many improvements in the garden over recent years and has taken forward a significant upgrading of the plantings. By the spring of 1999 the recovery work was well advanced and reconstruction of the picnic shelter is already well advanced.
Del James Walk
Looking back over the years it is not difficult to conclude that the Jameses provided a key coordinating role in the formative years of the Hendricks Park project. As a pioneer team of plantsman and plantswoman, Del and Ray also provided plant material and support in all sorts of ways to chapter members, but their names will more than likely be remembered for their fifty or so rhododendron crosses, many which have been carefully raised, named and registered by a later generation of enthusiasts. Today the Del James Walk in the park covers two acres of terraced slopes that run parallel to the Summit Avenue entrance drive on the southwest side of the garden. Interspersed in the beds between the meandering pathways are more than 1,000 plants which were transferred from Del and Ray's home from 1963 onwards to form the largest single collection in the park. Of all the rhododendrons in the park probably the most intriguing, from an on-going evaluation perspective, are the Jameses' crosses, as the park contains the majority share of their unnamed hybrids. The Jameses early hybridisation work is well represented and includes Rhododendron 'Umpqua Chief' with its deep salmon-pink and coral-orange flowers, 'Ray', a pale yellow, and 'Tumalo' with a fragrant 5-inch (12.5 cm) wide white flower with a chartreuse bud. 'Tumalo' was planted by Ray James and Michael Robert on Del's birthday in 1985.
Rhododendron 'Hendricks Park' ('Jalisco Elect' x 'Fawn'), a cross by Del James.
Photo by John Hammond
Del used another of his crosses, 'Fawn', a fragrant R. fortunei hybrid which shades from salmon-pink to an orange-yellow centre, with a very flat corolla which can reach 5 inches (12.5 cm) in width, as an empty pallet for further hybridisation work. This led to a sequence of other hybrids of which 'Lonny' and 'Skipper' now grace the walkways in the park. Seedlings from other work with 'Fawn' can be found in the park, but these are presently unnamed, the exception being 'Hendricks Park' which was a 1947 cross with the Rothschild hybrid 'Jalisco Elect', named by Ted Trombert and registered by Ray James in 1980. Ted was Head Gardener from 1960 to 1981. Del employed another of his crosses, 'Oasis' for further hybridisation work and a number of these seedlings are waiting in the garden for another generation of enthusiasts to assess. Other interesting unnamed seedlings grace private gardens around Eugene, and perhaps one day Del's work will be propagated for wider distribution which in turn will ensure that this material is not lost to cultivation. Some of the Jameses' material which originally came from Charles Raffill at Kew also found its way into the park, for example, the dark pink form of Magnolia campbellii from Raffill which towered above the Gick Memorial with its huge blooms. Sadly, this magnificent plant fell victim to the successive freezes of 1990 and 1991 and finally passed on. Ray James amusingly related the receipt of sprouted M. campbellii seeds from Raffill in a tobacco tin, looking for all the world like bean sprouts! This aristocrat of the magnolia species usually has twelve to sixteen clear pink tepals, but they can vary from pink to the pure white form. Raffill was fortunate in having available to him at Kew the magnolia collection of W. J. Bean who was particularly fond of the genus. It is significant that the Jameses were corresponding and exchanging plant material with Raffill during the time that he was hybridising magnolias. His interest in magnolias led to him making a sequence of crosses in 1946 at Kew with the aim of combining the flower colour of M. campbellii with the flower poise of M. campbellii var. mollicomata and also looking for late-flowering plants which would escape the late-spring frosts and bloom at an earlier age. It is more than likely that the Jameses received other magnolia plant material through their Kew "connection" and the grafted progeny of M. campbellii 'Hendricks Park' can still be found in the garden along with the hardier, rich-pink flowering M. campbellii 'Charles Raffill'. There is also a plant of M. campbellii 'Strybing Pink' that has been registered by a local nursery and which the University of British Columbia considers one of the better pinks.
James Barto Walk
Some would say that the extensive rhododendron collection which once surrounded the Barto homestead on the High Pass Road has to all intents and purposes been scattered to the winds and the plants now grace many an Oregon garden. With the passing years the enthusiasts who acted as "caretakers" for plants from the Barto homestead, or their relatives, donated this plant material to the park. This wonderful legacy continued into the 1980s and includes Rhododendron sutchuenense , R. yunnanense , R. davidsonianum and a huge pink form of R. calophytum some seventy years old which was started by Barto, then grown on by Carl Phetteplace, and finally moved by the park's crew in September 1985 from Carl's home. Unfortunately, this great plant located at the beginning of the James Barto Walk has declined and has become a part of the cycle of change which is inevitable in all established gardens as plant material reaches its optimum age and must give way to replacements. This particular clone will live on, however, in progeny propagated from the original.
Photo by Michael Robert
R. 'Skipper' ('Fawn' x 'Indian Penny').
Photo courtesy of Hendricks Park.
Probably the largest group of original plants raised by this remarkably fore-sighted pioneer plantsman are located along the James Barto Walk which forms a gradual climb that commences at the top of Summit Avenue and runs in a westerly direction towards the centre of the park. Towards the top of the climb is the blood-red Rhododendron barbatum hybrid, by Del James, whose tight compact trusses often burst in to bloom on Valentine's Day, after a mild winter, as a harbinger of spring. Close by is R. ririei which is also an early bloomer and whose branches are covered with blueish-purple bell-shaped flowers.
Through his friendship with E. J. P. Major, Barto also received a significant amount of early hybrid material from the other side of the Atlantic which is typified by the old Rhododendron griffithianum cross 'Beauty of Littleworth' by James Mangles who obtained pollen from Sir Joseph Hooker from the plant of R. griffithianum in the greenhouses at Kew. This vigorous upright plant is all of 25 feet (7.5 m) tall and its huge white flowers grow in profusion with distinctive reddish-purple spots on the upper lobe. This showy hybrid tends to grow single-sided but, nevertheless, performs well if grown against the side of a house as a means of providing some protection and support. Here too can be found R. decorum , R. fortunei ssp. discolor and the June flowering R. auriculatum , all of which arrived in the United States through Barto's farm.
As the leaves of the calendar change from April to May the brilliant shades of blue from Rhododendron augustinii merge easily with the vibrant purple of R. concinnum and contrast well with the springtime foliage at the top of the James Barto Walk. Here also is the royal azalea, R. schlippenbachii , its large clear-pink flowers providing a beautiful display which is followed by fine coloured foliage in the autumn.
R. 'Beauty of Littleworth' truss.
Photo by Michael Robert
R. 'Beauty of Littleworth' at Hendricks Park, showing how the weight of
the trusses bend the branches to the ground resulting in layering.
Photo by John Hammond
Dr. Carl Phetteplace, one of Oregon's outstanding physicians and surgeons, was also an original founder of the park and a charter member of the ARS. Many of the plants he and his family donated are located alongside the pathways of Founders Walk which commences at the main entrance and runs eastwards downhill towards the picnic shelter. The foundation of Carl's own species collection at his home alongside the McKenzie River in Leaburg was fifteen or so unlabelled plants chosen from those on sale at one dollar a plant at the Barto homestead in the early 1940s. Chosen for their foliage characteristics, these "trophies" were then loaded on a trailer and hauled back to Leaburg for planting.
Carl also acquired a number of other Barto plants from Del James, and his contacts with other gardeners in the Pacific Northwest and Great Britain led to further species acquisitions. He also subscribed to the 1948 expedition by Joseph Rock and in return received plants and propagating material. Carl acquired further Rock material in 1950, and over the years he established one of the finest species collections in North America. In the 1970s Carl donated the large Rhododendron oreodoxa affinity, the plant close to the main entrance which was hit by uprooted fir in last year's windstorm, and his family continued to support the park after Carl passed away. Many fine specimens were uplifted from his garden in Leaburg, including a number of species which were donated to the Rhododendron Species Foundation in Federal Way, Washington. Many other species and hybrids from his garden were donated to the park by his heirs as a tribute to Carl's generosity.
Complementing Carl's interest in species was hybridising, and over twenty of his crosses are registered. Amongst these are two original crosses which are now located in the park: the soft-pink flowered 'Abegail' and the elegant pure-white ruffled 'Showboat'. Interestingly, one of Carl's other crosses, 'September Song' with salmon-pink edges leading to a golden-orange throat, has been used extensively in recent years by a new generation of hybridisers whose work is only now reaching a stage where it can be evaluated. Another of Carl's introductions is 'Crater Lake', a bright violet-blue Rhododendron augustinii 'Barto Blue' cross which is widely grown in the Pacific Northwest and is now available in Australia and New Zealand.
As the morning sun pierces the overhead canopy, the rays light up the drifts of azaleas which border the east end of Founders Walk. The blaze of yellows, oranges, pinks and reds are a timely reminder that the park contains an enormous variety of azaleas which have been donated over the years. Here opposite the picnic shelter are many deciduous hybrids of the Exbury, Ghent and Mollis varieties. Both deciduous and evergreen azaleas are planted in many areas of the garden and there are fine specimens of azaleas native to the eastern United States and the native western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale .
General view across the garden.
Photo by John Hammond
R. 'Old Port', an old hybrid raised by Anthony Waterer in the 1860s,
is located in Hendricks Park near the picnic shelter.
Photo by John Hammond
Other founding contributors include Dr. Royal Gick, Charlie Thompson, Robin Overstreet, H. R. Allumbaugh, James Bradley, L. E. Clark, Dr. Barnett, Bill Riddlesbarger, and George and Merle Sanders. The late J. D. Vertrees, a nurseryman from Roseburg in southern Oregon and a widely recognised authority on ornamental Japanese maples, provided fifteen examples of the genus from his collection including Acer campestre , A. sieboldianum , A. capillipes , and A. ginnala . These added to the collection of maples already in the garden which were A. palmatum varieties and a large A. griseum , the paperbark maple, which graces the west end of the main garden lawn.
By far the largest group of flowering trees are the magnolias with over forty varieties represented which collectively form one of the best displays on the West Coast. These are mainly deciduous and many were donated by the Garden Club of Eugene and more recently by Gossler Farms Nursery, including M. tripetala , sprengeri , 'Diva', 'Wada's Memory', macrophylla , sargentiana , 'Robusta', many varieties of soulangiana , liliiflora , virginiana , kobus and the fragrant, broad spreading sieboldii . New additions include the rich burgundy red M. campbellii var. mollicomata 'Lanarth', a George Forrest 1924 collection from northwest Yunnan and named after the Cornish garden where it was raised.
Main Garden Walk
An island planting at the main entrance on Skyline Drive is dedicated to the work of Marshall and Ruth Lyons. In 1951 the Lyons donated a young plant of Rhododendron 'Rosemary Chipp', a pale rose-pink 'Loderi' g. x R. orbiculare hybrid by the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, purchased from the Barto homestead, to mark the foundation of Hendricks Park Garden. A progeny of that plant can be found in a lower garden bed along with the Lyons' cross "P. A." which received a Preliminary Award but wasn't registered. Over the years the Lyons family continued to support the park which now contains more than three hundred plants from their home.
The main entrance leads directly onto an acre of open grass which is bounded by the Main Garden Walk where a myriad of flowering ornamentals flourish beneath a canopy of Oregon white oaks ( Quercus garryana ). In this area of the garden are plants donated by other key supporters of the park including the large Magnolia soulangiana 'Picture' and the mature specimen of Acer griseum which together brighten up the main lawn.
Walking in an counter-clockwise direction around the Main Garden Walk the eyes are soon taken by the clouds of pastel-pink and cream blooms of the compact Rhododendron williamsianum with its rounded, heart-shaped leaves, whilst close by are a group of its hybrids: Moonstone Group, a creamy-yellow which flowers in profusion on a mound of oval green leaves, a J. C. Williams hybrid that performs well in the Pacific Northwest; 'Unique' which is a "good-doer" in heat and sun, tending to cover itself with pink buds and buttery-cream flowers which show well against the deep-green rounded leaves; and the handsome Rothschild hybrid 'Bow Bells' with its deep-pink buds and rose-pink flowers giving a striking two-toned effect.
Distractions come all too easy in this part of the garden but perhaps none more so than by way of the heavy scent of Loderi Group drifting past on the breeze. In a semi-circular bed is a magnificent plant of 'Loderi King George', the most highly-rated of the white forms with its branches intertwined with 'Loderi White Diamond' whose enormous white flowers have a distinctive blotch; this is one of the earliest named forms which for some inexplicable reason is less widely grown. In the same bed sheltered from the morning sun is the superb woodland garden plant 'Avalanche', a striking Rothschild cross with large pure white fragrant flowers, maybe twelve to fourteen in a large truss, that carry a small wine-red blotch. Alongside is another hybrid that is rapidly gaining in popularity, 'Bruce Brechtbill', the bud-sport of 'Unique' with pinker flowers and a touch of yellow in the throat, found by and named after a Eugene nurseryman.
Knaphill, Exbury, Ghent and Mollis azaleas. View at top of
Summit Avenue, opposite the picnic shelter.
Photo by John Hammond.
Photo by Michael Robert
Back around 1935 the Lyons had spent some time at the Barto homestead browsing around the many seedlings and came across a row of Rhododendron davidsonianum in bloom and were attracted by a particular young plant which was not for sale at the time. Later the Lyons were able to acquire the seedling which grew vigourously into a fine shaped upright plant in their garden with ten to twelve clear, rich pink flowers. This Barto seedling was named R. davidsonianum 'Ruth Lyons' as a selected form; it received a P.A. in 1961 and can be found towards the west end of the Main Garden Walk.
The Lyons also tried their hand at hybridising and just along the path is 'Blue River', a Ruth Lyons cross with up to seventeen unusual violet-spotted pale blue campanula flowers on a truss which contrasts well against the glossy green foliage. Marshall Lyons is probably better known for a sequence of hybrids registered in the early 1970s including 'Apricot Nectar' and the dark purple hybrid 'Exalted Ruler'.
Also in this area are a number of plants which came from the garden of Dr. Carl Phetteplace amongst which are two from the Barto homestead: 'Barto Blue', one of the better selected forms of Rhododendron augustinii with good clear, medium blue flowers, which for some reason is not widely grown beyond North American shores, and 'Barto Rose', a selected form of R. fargesii .
Towering over the western edge of the garden, close to where the Main Garden Walk curves back on itself, is the dove tree, Davidia involucrata , which was raised from seed at the Barto homestead. Gordon Wylie recalls encountering a visitor to the garden several years ago who, still obviously excited, asked if Gordon had heard of a dove tree and without waiting for an answer insisted that he immediately go and see its blooms resembling white doves nesting amongst the branches! Nearby is the popular orange-red cultivar Acer x 'Oshio beni' together with the sun tolerant and heat resistant Rhododendron 'Arthur Bedford', a vigourous upright plant with lavender-mauve flowers and a distinctive brown-red blotch, that responds well to the Pacific Northwest climate. A number of lower growing plants populate this area including the pure white R. leucaspis and its hybrids 'Snow Lady' and 'Quaver' together with that robust dwarf 'Ginny Gee' whose early flowers produce a mat of pink and dappled white blooms. Up ahead is the rosy, deep-pink R. arboreum ssp. cinnamomeum var. roseum which, originating from the relatively higher altitudes, is a hardier form of this species and tends to survive on a sheltered site in the colder parts of Britain and the Pacific Northwest. Amongst material "rescued" from the Barto homestead by Del James was a hybrid seedling which Del later named 'Esquire' and introduced around 1958. This plant with its dark green pointed leaves, which contrast well with the beautiful watermelon-pink flowers, is thought to be an R. griersonianum cross.
Dr. Royal Gick, who passed away in 1957, was a charter member of the ARS and one of the mainstays in founding the garden, is remembered through the donation by Mrs. Gick of plants from their Eugene home and seating which complements an area of the garden towards the main entrance including the species Rhododendron auriculatum and R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum , Exbury azaleas, and 'Jan Dekens'. Approaching the main entrance, and completing the walk around the lawn, is what is regarded as the best lighter pink of the Walloper Group*, 'Lem's Monarch' with its huge ruffled flowers and darker pink edges set against dark green leaves and sturdy stems. Close by are a number of dwarf hybrids including 'Snipe', PJM Group, 'Cilpinense', 'Tessa' and R. pemakoense .
As with all gardens, Hendricks Park continues to evolve. An exciting recent addition, under the auspices of the Emerald Chapter, North American Rock Garden Society, is a crevice garden designed by and begun with the personal assistance of Josef J. Halda, a Czechoslovakian rock gardener, botanist and alpine plant expert. The "crevice" style varies from other rock gardens in that the stones are packed closely together and at a tilt to provide only small niches for planting. Mr. Halda has built a great many rock gardens in both Europe and the United States. This example is sited above a path in the area of the Del James Walk and presently encompasses an area of approximately 50 by 20 feet (15 x 6 m). This will be home to dwarf rhododendrons, dwarf conifers, lewisias, and other Northwest alpine plants. This garden, which is elevated above the path, provides for especially effective use of small plants and may thus be viewed at eye level.
Eugene Chapter truss show, 1961, in Hendricks Park. Left to right standing: Peter Cox,
Edgar Greer, and Esther Greer; bending over: Merle Cisney; kneeling: John Henny.
Photo courtesy of Hendricks Park
Eugene Chapter truss show, 1961, in Hendricks Park.
A teenage Harold Greer leans against a tree on the right.
Photo courtesy of Hendricks Park
An Important Historical Resource
Hendricks Park and its rhododendron plantings are an important historical resource that the visitor can learn from and experience at a personal level. There is beauty to behold as you look around the garden, and then there all the different textures of the plants themselves which in turn are enhanced by the variety of scents that drift by on the breeze. Seeing, touching and smelling can together provide a practical introduction to a garden which encompasses the handiwork, perceptive planning and benevolence of the pioneer plantsmen and plantswomen of Eugene and its environs.
Hendricks Park is a place you need to experience for yourself, particularly in the spring at the peak of the rhododendron season when the flowers provide a fascinating tapestry of colour along the meandering pathways and around the secluded seating areas. Many other beautiful and unusual trees, shrubs, vines and wild flowers make this garden a delight to visit. And when you look out over the University of Oregon and the city of Eugene, or perhaps when you are somewhat distracted by this place of great beauty, you too may hear, like so many others before you, the deep whistle of a passing train and perhaps you will also give a thought to those generations of men and women whose generosity helped create this remarkable garden for all of us to enjoy.
Barrett, Clarence. 1990. The James Barto farm revisited. Jour. Amer. Rhod. Soc. 44 (2): 73.
Blackford, James, Ray James, and Amy Hitchcock. Informal history of Eugene chapter and Hendricks Park rhododendron garden (unpublished).
Blackford, James. 1968. History of Eugene Rhododendron Society and Hendricks Park. Quart. Bull. Amer. Rhod. Soc. 22 (2): 72-76.
James, Del. 1950. James E. Barto. Quart. Bull. Amer. Rhod. Soc. 4 (2):60-63.
Overstreet, M. D., R. M. 1963. Del James: an appreciation. Quart. Bull. Amer. Rhod. Soc. 17(3): 146-150.
Robert, Michael. 1987. Rhododendron garden at Hendricks Park. Pacific Horticulture . 48 (2).
Robert, Michael. 1987. Hendricks Park rhododendron garden. Journal Amer. Rhod. Soc. 41 (2): 90-92.
The authors are particularly grateful to Michael Robert, Hendricks Park Head Gardener, City of Eugene, who over the years has come to expect a barrage of queries on our visits to the park, has kindly clarified some aspects relating to recent changes and has also made available the photographs of historical interest which accompany the article.
* Name is not registered.
John Hammond is the Director of ARS Chapters at Large. Gordon Wylie is a Past President of the ARS.