JARS v55n3 - Northeast Regional Conference: Long Island, New York

Northeast Regional Conference: Long Island, New York
50 Years in Bloom!
Marianne S. Feller
Old Field, New York

The New York Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society is pleased to host the Northeast Regional Conference on Long Island, New York, on November 2-4, 2001. In addition to its generally favorable climate for rhododendrons, Long Island is indeed rich in history, culture and recreational activities. Time permitting, you may wish to explore the Old Bethpage Village Restoration to discover our rural heritage at a working replica of a simpler time; or visit Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home and museum; and, of course, there is Walt Whitman's Birthplace, a weathered farmhouse located in Huntington Station which, along with the surrounding West Hills, served as inspiration for the poet. From the Railroad Museum of Long Island to the Aviation Museum we are devoted to telling the stories of our earlier days and their importance to the Island as it exists today.

Long Island is bounded by the Sound on the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the south, providing the best of recreation for swimmers, surfers, those who enjoy fishing of any kind or simply love to feel the sand under their toes. Among Long Island's many horticultural venues are The Humes Japanese Stroll Garden in Mill Neck, a 4-acre site symbolizing a hillside landscape beside the sea; Planting Fields Arboretum, a 409-acre garden for all seasons, with 150 acres in cultivation; the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Oakdale, beautifully landscaped by the noted landscape architectural firm of Frederick Law Olmstead with a wide variety of rhododendrons, azaleas, cypress, dwarf evergreens, fir, hemlock, hollies, oaks, spruce and yew; and the Nassau County Museum of Art which occupies the neo-Georgian mansion of the 145-acre Frick country estate on the Island's beautiful North Shore. On these grounds is a pinetum with nearly 200 conifers from around the world and a walk which provides a sequence of delightful vistas through which to enjoy its outdoor sculpture as you savor autumn in New York.

Our conference headquarters, the recently renovated Holiday Inn, is conveniently located at Islip/MacArthur Airport and is easily reached from the Long Island Expressway. Special conference rates will be available on room reservations received no later than Sept. 30, 2001. Holiday Inn will provide free transportation to and from Islip/MacArthur Airport, as well as the Sayville and Ronkonkoma train stations of the Long Island Railroad.


An entertaining and exciting program has been developed for those new to rhododendron culture and seasoned veterans alike. Dick Murcott will open our conference on Friday evening.

Lectures commence on Saturday morning. Among those speaking will be Margery Daughtrey, Senior Extension Associate with the Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University. For the past twenty-three years, Ms. Daughtrey has conducted a research and extension program on the management of diseases of ornamental plants at Cornell's Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, New York, and will talk about "Insects and Diseases of Rhododendrons and Azaleas." Her program at Cornell entails the diagnosis of greenhouse and nursery crop diseases as well as the investigation of controls for problems such as downy and powdery mildew, and Pythium and Phytophthora root rot. Through her involvement with many entomologist friends, she also has learned a great deal about insects plaguing rhodies and azaleas. Ms. Daughtrey was the recipient of the Society of American Florists 1998 Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education and the 2000 Futura Award from Bedding Plants International.

Ian Donovan will speak about "Hybrid Deciduous Azaleas". Mr. Donovan was encouraged to garden at the very early age of 3 by his English mother and has been growing rhododendrons and azaleas since 1974. He joined the Society in 1975 as a member of the Tidewater Chapter in Virginia. Mr. Donovan is a past president, ARS Massachusetts Chapter, and a recipient of its Bronze Medal. After twenty-six years with the United States Navy, he retired as a Commander in 1980 and has since spent many years involved in adult education. Mr. Donovan currently gardens in Pembroke, Massachusetts, on an acre of pine and oak with several hundred rhodies and azaleas.

Our banquet speaker will be Charles H. (Chip) Muller, Ph.D., who will present a program on "Eastern Himalayan Plants and People: A Personal Family Perspective." Dr. Muller has a long relationship with mountains, their people and plants. He has climbed, hiked or trekked Mount Kilimanjaro and the major ranges of the Alps, the Himalayas and those of the United States. Dr. Muller grew up in Pennsylvania, where his father, George, was an active member of the ARS. He may well have inherited his love of rhododendrons from his father, but his enthusiasm for collecting species dates to 1986 and his first plant exploration trip in the Himalayas with Warren Berg. Dr. Muller has photographed and hunted rhododendrons since that time in Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet and Western China. He will share some of these adventures with us on Saturday evening. Dr. Muller is a reproductive biologist on the faculty of the University of (Washington Schnool of Medicine. He serves on the ARS Research Committee, the Board of Directors of the Rhododendron Species Foundation, the Rhododendron Species Foundation Photography Committee and is currently vice president and program chair of the Seattle Chapter. Dr. Muller also maintains membership in the Vancouver, British Columbia and Whidbey Island chapters. He has served three terms on the Board of Directors of the Seattle Chapter, chaired the Seattle Chapter's Early Rhododendron Show, May Rhododendron Show, and the 1999 ARS Annual Convention. Dr. Muller is a former editor and publisher of the Seattle Chapter newsletter and has had several articles published in the ARS Journal.

Dick Murcott, who will open our conference on Friday evening, will speak on "How the Past will Influence the Future of Rhododendrons." He has been growing rhododendrons since 1962 and has been an active hybridizer since 1964. Dick has named and registered three plants. In his garden, Mr. Murcott also grows chrysanthemums, holly and tuberous begonias - he is a permanent Master Chrysanthemum Judge. He has received the Bronze Medal from the New York Chapter and has spoken at many ARS meetings, where he is well known for his provocative and stimulating presentations. You will not be disappointed on Friday evening!

Ed Reiley, ARS president, will speak on the "Culture of Rhododendrons and Azaleas." Mr. Reiley was born on a farm in Maryland and began gardening at age 6. He has been a member of the ARS since 1969 and has been growing rhododendrons for forty years. Mr. Reiley managed a nursery selling rhododendrons and azaleas for fifteen years and continues to sell a few hundred plants each year. He currently gardens on 3.5 acres planted in rhododendrons, azaleas and perennials.

Mike Stewart, ARS Western Vice President and owner of Dover Nursery, will speak about "Hybrid Rhododendrons." Mr. Stewart received his B.S. degree in education from Portland State University in 1972 and holds a M.A.T. degree from Lewis and Clark College, 1978. He has been employed as a fire fighter, helicopter operations officer and timber cruiser with the United States Forest Service. He was a high school music instructor before opening Dover Nursery. Mr. Stewart is a private pilot and his interests, outside of a passion for rhododendrons, extend to music and skiing.

Dr. Philip Waldman will speak on the "Culture of Rhododendrons and Azaleas". Phil is a retired dentist, whose fervor for rhododendrons outweighed his desire to practice dentistry. He is the president of Roslyn Nursery, located in Dix Hills on Long Island. Phil is a former member of the Research Foundation of the ARS; a former board member of the New York Chapter; a former board member of Clark Botanical Garden; and a member of the New York Hortus Society, founded by Harold Epstein. Dr. Waldman is an active hybridizer and has introduced many plants over the years, which are offered at his nursery. He is the author of numerous articles, and lecturer and teacher of horticulture.

Harry Weiskittel will speak to us about "Evergreen Azaleas." Mr. Weiskittel is a member of both the ARS Potomac Valley and Mason Dixon chapters. He is an active hybridizer of azaleas and owner of Marshy Point Nursery on the shore east of Baltimore, where he sells to the wholesale trade. The nursery specializes in azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, ilex and kalmias. Mr. Weiskittel is a native of Maryland, and while in law school in 1972 he began growing plants from seed and soon had the ping pong table in the basement filled with flats containing seedlings. Upon graduation from law school he commenced his career in the field of law, but quickly decided that the nursery business was his passion.

Our last speaker, on Sunday morning, will be George Woodard, with a thought provoking presentation entitled "Finding a Focus in Hybridizing: What Are We Looking For?" He is the superintendent of the Howard Phipps Estate located in Old Westbury, Long Island. The estate is adjacent to Old Westbury Gardens, with grand allées, formal gardens, ponds, statuary and tree-lined walks. Mr. Woodard has been hybridizing for the past fifteen years, and the many beautiful acres of the Phipps Estate provide a lovely setting for the numerous new hybrids and other introductions attributable to his prodigious efforts. He is a graduate of Cornell University, past chairman of the ARS Seed Exchange and a member of the New York Hortus Society.

Tour/Golf Outing

For individuals with interests beyond horticulture activities, two events are planned. The first, on Friday morning, is a golf outing on one of Long Island's popular golf courses. To assure the best course conditions, the selection of a location for the outing will be postponed until later this year.

A tour of Long Island's wine-producing region, with lunch, will take place on Saturday. This region has experienced explosive growth since the first winery was established in the late 1970s. Long Island is the only wine region in New York State with ocean frontage, giving it the longest grape-growing season in the state. The North Fork of Long Island is home to more than a dozen wineries, two of which will be included on the tour. The carefully tended Gristina Vineyard, located in Cutchogue, yields Bordeaux-style wines. Pindar Vineyard, founded in 1979, is Long Island's largest vineyard. It encompasses nearly 550 acres of prime viticultural property with sixteen different vinifera varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Viognier.

Other Activities

Dee Daneri, executive director of the Office of the American Rhododendron Society, will facilitate an Open Forum on Sunday morning. Society and chapter officers, as well as all other members, are encouraged to attend. The Open Forum will provide an opportunity to express your concerns and offer suggestions for the continued success of the ARS. Literature about the ARS office website will be available. The address is www.arsoffice.org. You are invited to bring your questions.

There will be a Foliage Show for rhododendrons and azaleas in fall dress, and a Photo Contest to show your finest pictures. You may also wish to visit The Cradle of Aviation Museum at Mitchell Field in Garden City, shop at the Walt Whitman or Tanger Malls, hike the Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, visit A Century of Dolls Museum in Centereach, tour Old Westbury Gardens or Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay. Other attractions on Long Island include the Heckscher Museum of Art, located in Heckscher Park in Huntington Village, which has been described as "one of the primary small museums in the country with an international reputation," the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum, the Nassau Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, and the Stony Brook Grist Mill. Further information about these attractions will be available at the conference.

Plant Auction and Sale

The Plant Auction, under the auspices of Hank Schannen, auctioneer "extraordinaire," will provide attendees with the opportunity to obtain the rare, the unusual and the hard to find. Hank is a well-known grower, hybridizer and nurseryman and has received both the ARS Gold Medal and Bronze Medal. You can look forward to an exciting, fast paced auction. "Rhodoholics" particularly welcome!

The Plant Sale will offer hundreds of locally grown rhododendrons and azaleas propagated just for this special event. Not normally found in the trade, this material will be offered at very attractive prices. A number of Hardgrove's hybrids, as well as some Dexters from Long Island, will be available at the sale. Remember - fall is for planting!

Hybridizers' Roundtable

A Hybridizers' Roundtable, moderated by Herman C. (Bud) Gehnrich of the New York Chapter, is scheduled for Sunday morning. Short introductory comments will be provided by each participant in the roundtable, followed by questions from the audience. On the panel will be Tom Ahern of the Lehigh Valley Chapter; Allan Anderson of the Tappan Zee Chapter; Dick Gustafson of the Princeton Chapter; Jack Looye of the Niagara Region Chapter; and George Woodard of the New York Chapter. They will all regale us with slides of their very latest hybridizing accomplishments.