JARS v54n3 - RSF Plans New Vireya Conservatory

RSF Plans New Vireya Conservatory
Steve Hootman
Co-Executive Director and Curator
Rhododendron Species Foundation
Federal Way, Washington

Reprinted from the Vireya Vine, No. 59, May 2000

For many years now, the Rhododendron Species Foundation (RSF) has been growing, propagating and distributing a relatively good, but always somewhat limited selection of vireya species. This was undertaken in an effort to fulfill our mission of conservation, research, acquisition, evaluation, cultivation, public display and distribution of Rhododendron species. Unfortunately, the lack of proper growing conditions and adequate help have always been detrimental in our efforts to substantially increase our vireya collection and its distribution.

Fortunately, conditions and attitudes have changed dramatically in the past several years. After all, we are not the "Hardy Rhododendron Species Foundation." We are now firmly committed to expanding our entire collection including vireyas. A recent major addition to the RSF vireya collection was the donation of an amazing selection of vireyas from Mr. Frank Doleshy of Edmonds, Washington. Frank was well known to many of you and many of these plants were from his own collections from the wild. Exciting new species added to the RSF collection from this donation include pachycarpon , lowii , longiflorum , ' correoides and many superb selections of more common species. We are also acquiring many of the new species collected by George Argent of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE Scotland) and have received several new species collected in Sulawesi by RSF members Hank Helm and John Farbarik. Several of these have already bloomed with celebicum and rhodopus outstanding and quite growable.

The most exciting development in our quest to cultivate, display and distribute the entire range of vireya species, however, is the soon to be constructed Vireya House. This will be a large enclosed conservatory near the main entrance and gift shop here at the garden.

The interior design and planting will be based upon that of the famous Peat House at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh which grows and displays many difficult species so effectively. Moss-covered logs, hanging baskets, tree fern trunks and raised mounds of boulders will all be covered with vireyas. From the superb leucogigas to the dwarf and difficult saxifragoides , representatives of the entire RSF vireya collection will be grown either directly in the conservatory or rotated through as they bloom. One section of the structure will be designed as an area to distribute information and sell vireyas to visitors and collectors.

This new temperature-controlled building is being designed for one purpose only, the successful cultivation and subsequent display of vireyas. The improved growing conditions will allow us to cultivate those species which we have had so much difficulty growing in the propagating greenhouse. We will also be able to attain more propagating material from the healthier, free-growing plants. In addition, we have hired former RSF propagator Dennis Bottemiller to help me curate the vireya collection and see to the day to day operations of the Vireya House. Dennis has seven years experience in conservatory horticulture and is an accomplished propagator.

Obviously, things are looking up for those of you with a strong interest in this remarkable group of plants. We have an architectural design in hand and would like to begin construction of this facility in the fall of 2000. As of this writing [April 2000] we have approximately half of the $73,000 needed to finish this project. You can help us become the center for vireya species display, cultivation, distribution and most importantly, knowledge and conservation. Many of you have already contributed towards this important endeavor. Please, help us develop this collection into one rivaling that of the RBGE but with a policy of distribution. Any contribution is applauded and gratefully accepted. All those contributing over $25 will have their names engraved on a permanent plaque at the entrance of the Vireya House.