JARS v54n3 - In Memoriam: Molly McGuire Grothaus

In Memoriam: Molly McGuire Grothaus
Helen Mershon

Molly McGuire Grothaus, horticulturist and Portland Chapter member, died on May 10, 2000, in her home at the age of 79. After working as a garden and feature writer for The Oregon Journal (in Portland, Oregon) in the 1960s, she left in 1971 to publish and edit the Quarterly Bulletin of the American Rhododendron Society for eight years. She and her husband, Louis, were involved for many years in the Society and the Portland Chapter, both holding several offices and committee chairs at the local level. Mrs. Grothaus, whose interests extended far beyond her personal garden, was also a member of the American Rock Garden Society and a charter member of the Oregon Native Plant Society. As a member of the Portland Garden Club, she received national and international recognition, including the Garden Club of America's Catherine Beattie Medal for Horticultural Excellence in 1987 and, in 1991, the Natalie Peters Webster Medal for finding unusual plant material.

Mrs. Grothaus inherited the "can-do" spirit of her great grandparents who came across the Oregon Trail in 1852. When Rae Selling Berry died in 1976, Mrs. Grothaus spearheaded the effort to conserve Mrs. Berry's six-acre garden, a garden that is filled with rare plant collections from around the world. She served several terms as the Berry Botanic Garden Foundation's president. In spite of many problems, her persistence and faith in the project led the way in establishing the substantial fund that has secured the Berry Botanic Garden's existence today. In one instance after reading about a seed bank project in England, Molly said, 'We can do that, too," and proceeded to get a grant to start Saving Seeds for the Future. The Berry Botanic Garden now has more than 2 million seeds in its bank.

She was also a hybridizer. The very beautiful Rhododendron 'Julia Grothaus', named for one of the Grothaus' daughters, is probably the best known. The plant received an Award of Excellence from the American Rhododendron Society in 1988.

This summer, a memorial will be held in the lovely Grothaus garden, which contains more than 3,000 species and forms of plants. Mrs. Grothaus kept a journal about the garden, which has attracted botanists, horticulturists, and gardeners from around the world. On May 6, 1989, she wrote in her journal, "It's hard to imagine not being here to see the melody and counterpoint of spring; the flowers of each plant opening in a predestined timing, the colors flushing and ebbing in an annual ritual."