JARS v55n1 - 2001 - A Rhododendron Odyssey

2001 - A Rhododendron Odyssey

Blooming rhododendrons from sea level to ski level await you at the 56th annual international convention of the American Rhododendron Society in Eugene. This celebration of gardening gathers rhododendron themes from many international origins to weave into a tapestry featuring our favorite plants and their friends.

Mark April 24 through 29 on your calendar and join the host ARS Eugene Chapter for an unparalleled program of international speakers, incredible tours and state of the art workshops that will bring your knowledge and appreciation of the genus to a new level. Eugene's Valley River Inn is convention headquarters, on the banks of the beautiful Willamette River. The Inn's windows frame scenes of water birds, spectacular sunsets and the reflected lights of the City of Eugene. Convention delegates can rent bicycles, stroll along the many miles of bike paths skirting the river, or walk next door to Valley River Shopping Center, featuring 144 retail outlets and many dining choices. There is free parking at Valley River Inn.

2001 ARS Convention photos

For those flying into Portland Airport, convention organizers have planned a special tour to Eugene traveling off the freeway for a country atmosphere. Tour participants can expect views of snowcapped Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson and timbered hills enroute to The Oregon Garden in Silverton. You can read about this newest Oregon attraction in the Fall 2000 issue of our Journal with many pictures by author Frances Burns. If you choose to land at the Eugene Airport, appropriately landscaped with many hybrid rhododendrons, you will be offered a free shuttle to Valley River Inn, convention headquarters.

Eugene is in the heart of the Pacific Northwest and easily accessible by airplane, train or car. You can extend your convention visit in many ways. Enjoy rhododendrons and other scenic attractions from the Oregon Coast to the Cascade Mountains or in the many gorgeous gardens, nurseries and wonderful natural areas. Check with the hospitality desk.

The Eugene/Springfield community combines big city amenities with small town hospitality. Many rhododendron enthusiasts will recall other great conventions in Eugene. Eugene has an ideal climate for rhododendron culture, with moderate rainfall and mild temperatures, thanks to the Japanese ocean current flowing off the Oregon Coast. Volcanic soils and centuries of forest growth have provided the acid soil conditions so beneficial for rhododendron growth. Many less hardy varieties are regularly grown here. Convention goers will find a wider variety of species and hybrids than they imagined possible.

And April showers? Yes, you do need to bring a raincoat, good walking shoes and umbrella for that personal experience with Oregon showers that encourage such great rhododendron growth.

Some of the great names in rhododendron culture called the Eugene area their home. James Barto, ARS Pioneer Achievement Award honoree, collected species and hybrids from around the world until his untimely death in 1940 at the age of 59. Del and Ray James hybridized and exchanged plants, seeds and pollen throughout the rhododendron world, and contributed generously to the collection you'll see at Eugene's Hendricks Park. Dr. Carl Phetteplace, collector and hybridizer, served splendidly as ARS president and sponsored expeditions to Asia. Edgar Greer retired to Eugene only to find his horticultural interests exploding to include rhododendrons and establishment of a business, now Harold and Nancy Greer's famous rhododendron nursery. The notables continue with Dr. Milton Walker, who at great sacrifice conceived and carried to fruition the Rhododendron Species Foundation and its botanic garden, now a celebrated collection of rhododendron species in Federal Way, Washington.

While attending the convention, you'll have the choice of touring many great gardens, large and small, public and private. Saturday shuttles will take you to Hendricks Park, on a hilltop overlooking Eugene, and tours will include stops at the exceptional nurseries of Greer Gardens, Gossler Farms Nursery, and Northwest Garden Nursery of Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne. Tours will include gardens of local ARS members and other horticultural treasure spots. Both half-day and full-day tours are offered to grab your fancy.

Garden tour walking promotes healthy appetites, and Eugene has a variety of food choices to fit every palate and pocketbook. Valley River Inn is well known locally for a Northwest theme menu, and other nearby choices have international flavors. At our registration desk, you will find lists of many dining choices, and maps to direct your walk or drive.

Edmund de Rothschild
Edmund de Rothschild


Edmund de Rothschild applied the same intelligence and finesse honed during a distinguished career in Rothschild international banking and investment interests to rescuing the war neglected Exbury Gardens. Edmund de Rothschild is the son of Lionel de Rothschild, founder of Exbury Gardens. We are honored to have him as our featured speaker Saturday night. Two other overseas guests, Alan Clark, curator of plants at Muncaster Castle in England, and John Hammond, the ARS Director at Large, will give highly anticipated presentations. Clark is known for a fine sense of humor. As our opening speaker Wednesday evening, he will draw on a rhododendron background that is as far reaching as his trips to Asia. Those who attended the convention in Oban, Scotland, will recall meeting and hearing him there. Hammond, who reads and travels extensively in pursuit of rhododendron knowledge, brings a background of garden history and deep understanding of both old and new rhododendron hybrids, as well as species, to his Saturday morning address.

New Zealand hybrids, hybridizers, and gardens with down under touches may have distracted us from another New Zealand enthusiasm - vireyas. We'll hear about "Vireyas in the Wild and at Home" from Keith Adams of New Zealand.

But there's more. Steve Hootman of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington, will speak about rhododendron species that are particularly adaptable for garden use in both mild and severe climates. Hootman, who has made many collecting expeditions to the Far East, is a speaker in considerable demand.

Harold Greer of Eugene will present one of his unforgettable multi-projector shows of color images. His well known photographic skills are displayed in several books and numerous magazine articles.

Native plants and their uses in gardens will be featured in illustrated talks by Wilbur Bluhm of Keizer, near Salem. Bluhm is the retired head of the Oregon State Extension Service in Salem, and has a lifelong involvement with gardens professionally and as a hobby. His current favorite native? It's Vancouveria hexandra , the inside-out flower and a great groundcover under rhododendrons.

A jewel of Northwest parks, Hendricks Park in Eugene, will be the subject of a slide presentation by Michael Robert, head gardener, "Fifty Years of Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden." Michael, active in the ARS as District 4 Director, has been in charge of the city park since 1981. You can read more about Hendricks Park in the Summer 2000 issue of the Journal, which outlines the garden's story and how the park and its development are intertwined with the area's rhododendron history.

Marietta and Ernie O'Byrne of Eugene's Northwest Garden Nursery, a tour stop, will present a workshop on plants to complement rhododendrons in the woodland garden. Marietta is a widely published garden writer; you can read about the display garden and the nursery in the November 2000 issue of Sunset Magazine.

Michael S. Thompson, a professional horticultural photographer based in Eugene, will lead a workshop on capturing our favorite gardens and flowers on film. Thompson's professional photo credits are too numerous to list, and his enthusiasm for the subject is contagious.

Workshops on all aspects of propagation, pest management, water features, rock gardens and more are part of the program schedule. Convention planners have scheduled repeats of some popular workshops, so that you may fit in as much as possible.

By Sunday morning, conventioneers will turn to face the future. Mike Stewart of Oregon's Dover Nursery and a very active ARS officer, will bring his experiences with Dover Nursery to a discussion of colorful gardens.

This final day will also include the always popular Breeders' Roundtable, chaired by Frank Fujioka of Whidbey Island, Washington. Rhododendrons in Frank's garden have to be spectacular to compete with his view across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains. Rhododendron fans can judge his 'Cranberry Lace', 'Midnight Mystique', 'Seaview Sunset', 'Elsie Watson' and 'Starbright Champagne' to see how this Bronze Medal award winning hybridizer transfers this excitement to their gardens. Additionally, Merle Sanders, Nolan Blansit, Allan Anderson and Jim Barlup will be participants in the Breeders' Roundtable. Merle Sanders of Roseburg is breeding hybrids like 'Gentle Giant' with huge trusses and vigorous growth. "When I see a big fat seed pod on certain plants, I can't help myself. I pick that pod and grow those seeds on to flowering plants," he says. "I encourage you to try planting from seed because this is where the fun comes in." Nolan Blansit came to Oregon some years back to tackle a rural property "in the rough" and turn it into a garden to test his hybrids. His wooded garden near London, Oregon, is fast filling with his test crosses. Allan Anderson, who hybridizes rhododendrons with wife Shirley in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, introduced the column "Lets Talk Hybridizing" in the Fall 1999 Journal. Anderson takes an analytical approach to breeding good garden plants with his enthusiasm for rhododendrons. Jim Barlup of Bellevue, Washington, was a commercial photographer before he "retired" in 1994 to become really busy as one of the Northwest's major hybridizers. His contributions to the ARS Seed Exchange mark his continuing interest in yellow and orange hybrids as well as combining Eastern hardiness with West Coast colors. This spring finds many of his recent hybrid introductions in plant catalogs.

2001 ARS Convention
garden tours


Only busses, not thematic spaceships, are available this month for 2001's extensive tour schedule, but the tour schedule garden stops are "out of this world." For example, the first all-day tour Wednesday will be to the Oregon Coast where a stop will be at a Shangri-la, the Yachats garden of Jim and Janice Gerdemann. As a professor of plant pathology at Urbana, Illinois, Jim developed an interest in rhododendrons and found it a challenge to grow tender favorites. After retirement, he chose to move to Yachats where he literally and laboriously carved a garden out of the coastal brush and brambles. Here he and Janice proceeded to grow rhododendrons such as the exotic Maddenia Subsection, which is too tender for other Oregon locales. The Gerdemanns have some very special treats - "hardy" vireyas, twenty-one forms of Rhododendron arboreum, some of Jim's new blooming hybrids, and exotic South American, South African and Australian plants.

Another stop on the Coast Tour will the Thompson Nursery at Waldport, one of the state's largest commercial nurseries. The 145-acre site at the west edge of the Coast Range was developed into a nursery by Willard and Margaret Thompson, and is now owned by the next generation, Roy and Evelyn. And those special rhododendron hybrids continue. 'Ring of Fire', a color breakthrough in our favorite plant, led the way for the exciting blooming plants you'll see at the nursery and display garden. See it first! That newly blooming plant may have just opened, and even Roy and Evelyn may have not yet seen it!

Back in Eugene Wednesday, one tour will introduce or reacquaint you with many old friends - 2,000 of them - at the Stan and Doty Hall garden in Junction City, just north of Eugene. The Halls, both retired school teachers, operated a well known large rhododendron nursery. The magnificent old original planting on the banks of a natural stream bed has been retained, with some of the hybrids and species now over forty years old and of gigantic size. Stan has had some hybridizing success, and you will want to quiz him particularly about his fine dwarf rhododendrons.

On a Eugene hilltop, Maxine Rowan's garden is a mature garden on a one acre parcel, home to an impressive and choice collection of plants. Located on a site originally owned by Mrs. Rowan's parents, Maxine remembers picking apples with her mother. The shaded part of the garden is home to many ferns, hostas, rhododendrons, azaleas and a host of other woodland treasures, all nestled into beds carved out of a delightful jumble of big moss covered boulders under a cooling canopy of native oaks, Quercus garryana . The rock garden was built by Maxine over thirty years ago and has evolved into a rich tapestry of flower and foliage. You will have the opportunity to see 30-year old specimens of dwarf conifers combined with the warm glow of a golden full moon maple, Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum', watched over by a sentinel purple fountain beech, Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain'. The perennial and mixed borders are artistically designed and impeccably groomed. This is a fine garden for all seasons.

You can check out many other tree species along with hundreds of rhododendrons and perennials galore at the next stop, Greer Gardens. Harold Greer, former ARS president, and wife Nancy present a huge display garden with majestic mature plants of species and hybrids, and the retail sales yard with many thousands of plants. Over the years, Harold has worked closely with many hybridizers in introducing hundreds of worthy plants to the gardens of the world. Consider the environment that inspired the then young Harold to begin hybridizing, resulting in 'Trude Webster', one of the first rhododendron hybrids to win the ARS Superior Plant Award. And Harold has hybridized and introduced many more great plants!

Thursday afternoon tours continue your introduction to more Eugene area gardens and their innovations and inspirations. "Slim" Barrett, author - as Clarence Barrett - of History of the Rhododendron Species Foundation: Genesis of a Botanic Garden, will have his new hillside garden and its many species on Thursday's West Eugene tour. This is a young garden, planted and shaped since 1994. Many large boulders that originated when the hillside was bulldozed for the building site are features on the many terraces. Slim and Elaine had a site with no trees - no shade. The soil was, and is, a rather heavy clay and water was pumped from a very reluctant well. Culture was, and still is, difficult. But a few new trees are now providing some shade for the approximately 400 rhododendrons. Terracing, rock retaining walls, a waterway and pond and rock garden areas have created an attractive garden that can only improve with age. The garden features a number of impressive rhododendrons grown as standards, including Rhododendron degronianum ssp. yakushimanum , R. williamsianum , 'Creeping Jenny', 'Scarlet Wonder' and others. All were grafted to 'Anna Rose Whitney' rootstocks about twelve to fifteen years ago. Slim described his traumatic garden relocation in a Journal article some years ago. The terrific view of the lower Willamette Valley, with an eastern background of foothills and mountains, may not be appreciated by the plants, but the plants make a colorful frame for the views to many directions. Note how Slim's standards work to terrific advantage on a hillside site, framing, not blocking the view.

On the same tour is Northwest Garden Nursery. Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne are particularly well known in rock gardening circles and their nursery a few miles west of Eugene is noted for its fantastic display garden, containing hundreds of varieties of perennials as well as rhododendrons and other decorative shrubs. A visit to their nursery is one you will not want to miss, and surely one you will not soon forget. This is a great place for notebook and camera, and the O'Byrnes are enthusiastic about sharing ideas and plant placement insights. Their garden often appears in national and regional garden publications. Ernie and Marietta have an encyclopedic knowledge of plant materials and culture, and both gladly share gardening experiences, culture tips and plant identifications. Bring a pencil!

Another tour will have stops at mature gardens created by long-time chapter members. In the past thirty-four years, Dr. William McHolick has seen the city spread around his garden on Eugene's Coburg Road, as the route developed into a major thoroughfare from a quiet way to the country. And as the busy city spread closer and closer, his plants grew to provide a mature green shield against the urban sprawl. "I collect for foliage," he says. "I was bloom blind, but then I grew out of it." Years ago, he planted a Rhododendron 'Crest', now 25 years old and touching the eves of the house. A R. bureavii tops 8 feet (2.4 m). Many mature "yaks" in a number of forms demonstrate how to best use these plants. Dr. McHolick adds a special flavor to the foliage emphasis with a collection of the more tender big leafs. Some Arctic express winters require special treatment of these foliage display plants, so his plants are carefully covered and protected from Jack Frost in late fall.

Another stop is the home of Gordon Wylie, former ARS president, and Linda Wylie, long-time Seed Exchange chairman. Gordon and Linda are inviting you to see how a garden started on a rolling site with few trees has matured since planting first began in 1978. Gordon grew up on a farm, but his experience was food crops. His exposure to the rhododendron virus occurred as Gordon and Linda built their new home. Success with some old standbys led to development as plant collectors and the addition of many more unusual varieties. As the years passed, the garden grew with the addition of many trees, many uncommon, and carefully chosen hybrid and species rhododendrons and companion plants. There's a large mature Rhododendron calophytum , and other representative big leafs. How this garden developed into one of the premiere horticultural sites in the area is a tribute to their natural talent for design, color blending and innate good taste. The Wylies strive for a garden with interest at all seasons, selecting trees, plants, perennials and bulbs for garden interest throughout the year. Pictures of their garden and a discussion of some features are included in Rhododendrons in the Landscape by Sonja Nelson.

The garden of Dr. David Williams has one of the biggest collections of rhododendrons in containers around. Dr. Williams was the leader of the chapter's species study group and this is reflected in the many mature species planted under the giant sequoias in the back of his two third-acre garden. Repeat conventioneers will remember this garden from the 1987 convention in Eugene.

The garden of Dick Bray has over 200 rhododendrons in a hillside woodland setting with spectacular views of Spencer Butte and Eugene's south hills. An additional highlight is the huge waterfall features that he has added to the garden. They are so amazing it is difficult to notice the wonderful plantings.

Tours resume Friday, with an all day tour proceeding east from Eugene through Springfield into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, stopping at some very special gardens on or near the McKenzie River.

Gossler Farms Nursery, run by Marj, Roger and Eric Gossler on the banks of the McKenzie near the Springfield north boundary, has some very rare rhododendrons, but magnolias are the passion here. Roger Gossler travels internationally to find little known and stunning trees, shrubs and perennials for his display garden, which blooms all year. Spring, however, is the big show and you'll have to ask the identity of some of the rare and newly introduced plants seen here.

At Kintigh's Mountain Home Farm, east of Springfield, Bob and Margaret Kintigh are now retired from a very successful Christmas tree and conifer business. For his avocation, Bob is growing hundreds of species and hybrid rhododendron plants in a gentle wooded site along a stream and around a pond. These plantings draw on his long professional horticultural experience for the management of plants and trees. During your visit, you can visit the associated tree seedling nursery and greenhouses, the starting site for more than a million tree seedlings each year.

Further up in the Cascade foothills lies Dunroamin, home of Ralph and Frances Burns. Frances described their riverbank garden in "Rhubarb Among the Rhododendrons," in the Summer 1997 Journal. You'll see the results of Frances' serious transformation into a rhodoholic, as well as some of Ralph's blooming hybrids and many fine companions. Their interest in rhododendrons began with their neighbor Art Childers and many of his fine hybrids can be found here.

The McKenzie River produces an extremely favorable growing area. Noel and Pepper Berkeley in Vida have planted hundreds of rhododendrons in a hillside/pond garden with an oriental theme around a large pond. Their aim is to keep their garden to an area they can care for as they get older. Noel is abandoning his English origins. There is no lawn! One boundary of the garden is a well-trimmed bamboo hedge, and four other bamboo varieties as well as mature stands of ornamental grasses frame two waterfalls and a stream.

Friday afternoon, thirsty convention goers and their friends may sign up for a tour featuring some specialty names not from the ericaceous branch of flowering plants on a discovery trip to explore Willamette Valley wines. Three major wineries will be included on an afternoon tour that will include wine sampling, facility presentations and a bus tour through the verdant countryside that greeted the weary pioneers at the end of the Oregon Trail.

Hinman Vineyards/Silvan Ridge is one of Oregon's leading wineries. Located about thirty minutes southwest of Eugene, the vineyard has a tasting room open daily and has informative tours. The King Estate represents an unparalleled commitment to producing wines of truly exceptional quality. The beautiful 840-acre estate is crowned by a classic state of the art winery crafted in the style of a grand European chateau. Tours will take you into a truly continental theme. LaVelle Vineyards is a quiet, secluded retreat tucked into rolling hills fifteen minutes west of Eugene. The sixteen-acre vineyard features terraced gardens, a tasting room and an art gallery.

Our famous Hendricks Park, a kaleidoscope of color nestled in Eugene's woodland hills contains over 3,000 rhododendrons and 3,000 additional companion plants. Convention shuttles are scheduled all Saturday afternoon to take you up to this site, where huge mature plants provide a living history of rhododendrons in the Western United States. On groomed paths winding through this now 50-year-old city park, the species and hybrids of the rhododendron pioneer growers and hybridizers are displayed in a setting worthy of the plant world nobility.

2001 ARS Convention
garden tours


A special attraction for many of us will be The Plant Sale of the Year. This is the one place to obtain the rare the unusual and the hard to find. This sale so big it will be held outdoors in a tent near the Valley River Inn. Rhododendrons, including the hybrids 'Eugene'*, 'Springfield' and, of course, the theme Star Trek will be featured with other vendors emphasizing ferns, heather, and companion plants. Of particular interest is the release of several of Art Childer's hybrids, many for the first time.

And during the convention, stop over at Valley River Center and check out the Eugene Rhododendron Society's annual Spring Truss Show, a major event in the Eugene-Springfield area. Hundreds of trusses are entered annually, with some of the new hybrids on exhibit to achieve fame in future years.

Other area attractions include Eugene's outdoor Saturday Market, downtown in the Eugene Park Blocks across the Willamette River from the Inn, which has developed a tradition and following throughout the West. It's the oldest weekly open-air crafts festival in the United States, with more than 200 booths featuring food and locally handmade items. This is an unique Eugene experience, and you'll long remember the strolling entertainers, costumes and friendly vendors.

Visitors who favor the visual arts will find a number of art galleries in the downtown area, most within walking distance of the city core. Also check out the Maude Kerns Art Center, just east of the campus.

On site at the convention, you will find gardeners' accessories, gifts and crafts for plant lovers. Also a wide selection of horticultural books will delight you, and aid in enjoying your garden even more. A photographic display will feature your photographs of rhododendrons and their companions. See the registration form for more details. And a well equipped travel desk will assist you in planning the remainder of this Eugene visit and wishing for the next!

We are looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones!

* Name is not registered.