JARS v56n2 - From the Executive Director

From the Executive Director
Dee Daneri
Fortuna, California

Unless the local garden club has a tea party and mixes up rhododendron leaves with camellia leaves while brewing the tea, there's little chance our beloved rhody will ever make headlines. The headline would read "Rhododendron is held suspect - 20 die at local tea party." Just our luck!

By now you've all heard about our Rhododendron Spider Web. Those are our special volunteers who offer to take email messages with almost every request imaginable (well, rhody related). Last fall a request came in asking where the caller might buy Lali Guras Tea. She had heard that rhodies make excellent tea and that this was a particularly good "brand." I thought about calling 911 but called in all the Spiders for emergency help. Mike Bones, Siuslaw president, immediately emailed Sailesh Pradham in India (small world). Sailesh wrote back, telling us that Lali Guras Tea literally means red rhododendron tea. But, it's important to read the rest of Sailesh's account. There seems to be a tea garden in Nepal by the name Lali Guras Tea, and the tea harvested from the garden may be named that. All tea estates have a name and call their produce after the name of the estate, "just like the French wines," said Sailesh.

Sailesh went on to say that he had no idea if rhodo leaves could be brewed, but that no one in Sikkim was practicing this. I think we should follow this good advice and not be mixing our genus Rhododendron with the species Camellia sinensis .

Through the writings of David Leach and others, we've learned that rhododendron tea was once thought to be a possible cure for arthritis. The only well-documented accounts of this practice showed that while patients sometimes reported the disappearance of arthritis pain, they also died.

Well, while we're waiting to make the 6 o'clock news with the happy side of being a rhody and azalea lover, all we can do is give a special thank you to the members who have walked that extra mile to speak out for the best side of rhododendrons.

For the past three years we've been blessed with gifts from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, totaling over $45,000. This grant has given us the opportunity to produce care guides and hangtags in a large enough quantity to send them out to chapters, growers, nurserymen, and literally anyone on the planet who wants to participate in our continuing commitment to educate the planet about the genus Rhododendron , including the azaleas. Jack and Ann Root continue to supply our beautiful membership brochures But the whole system wouldn't work if it weren't for the many dedicated members who pick up the care guides from chapter officers and deliver them to the local garden centers. It wouldn't work if growers who really want to serve their customers well didn't take the time to place hangtags on plants. The customers of these special growers are given access to our Rhododendron and Azalea Support Group via our hangtag.

Now, thanks to the hard work of President Ed Reiley and Laura Kentala's Plant Awards Committee, we are about to launch the "Rhododendron of the Year" award. With the help of Publicity Chairman Jerry Reynolds, a press release will go out to the media identifying the best rhododendrons and azaleas for various regions. Our top photographers are providing photos for the release – Eleanor Philp and Harold Greer to the rescue again. Growers will be notified well in advance in order to prepare for the announcement. Just like the "Rose of the Year," it's time for rhododendrons and azaleas to start making their annual debut.

As the largest rhododendron society on the planet, we have a responsibility to work together and speak out on behalf of rhododendrons everywhere. If your participation in the distribution of our materials introduces just one more person to the beauty and pleasure of growing rhododendrons, you have done well!

In the 1970s, our benefactor John Swisher read about "Javanicums" in Bailey and immediately became fascinated by vireyas and their "extraordinary potential," as written in a letter to Pat Tatum in January 1980. Thank you, Pat, for sharing your letters. We can now thank Dr. John Swisher, a teacher of physiological psychology for a time, for his very special gift to the Society, which is now a part of the Endowment Fund. Let's help someone else find the road to rhodies!