JARS v57n1 - Treasures of the Pacific Northwest

Treasures of the Pacific Northwest
2003 ARS International Convention
Convention Steering Committee
Connie Klein, Chair

"Treasures" abound in the Pacific Northwest - an abundance of water, forests and scenic mountain peaks, a temperate coastal climate and hardy inhabitants. The site of the 2003 ARS International Convention in Olympia, Washington, is located in the heart of this rich environment. We invite you to join the camaraderie of rhododendron enthusiasts in true Northwest hospitality. See beautiful displays of rhododendron blooms in the landscape kept green throughout the year by our famous climate!

Speakers, Programs and Events

We are pleased to welcome renowned program speakers featuring Holger Hachmann from Germany and Graham Smith from New Zealand, as well as local TV and newspaper personalities. A welcoming Thursday evening BBQ and traditional Saturday evening banquet will complement the ambitious program schedule. Most speakers were highlighted in the Fall 2002 ARS Journal.

Holger Hachmann Graham Smith
Featured speaker Holger Hachmann of Germany,
co-proprietor of Hachmann Nurseries.
Featured speaker Graham Smith of New Zealand,
director of Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust, NZ.

The convention finishes on Sunday with a very strong schedule patterned after the successful 2002 Western Regional Conference in Bellingham, Wash. The ARS Administrative Forum hosted by Dee Daneri will update attending officers and members on Society procedures and provide a great opportunity to talk with our Society's executive director. This will be followed by two concurrent seminars. Frank Fujioka will chair the Hybridizers' Roundtable, always an informative session with the latest front line activities discussed in the pursuit of the improved rhododendron. See pictures of rhododendrons that may be in our future. Steve Hootman will conduct a "species identification session", which will amazingly digress into pictures and descriptions of the forces shaping the wide diversity of rhododendron species in their natural habitats.

Truss Show

An impressive display of flower trusses will provide a sampling of the amazing variety of rhododendrons that vigorously live in this region. We will assemble a large and renowned panel of judges for this show - all of you experts attending the convention! Each registrant will get a ballot to list their favorites in various categories plus "best of show." Top selections will be proclaimed as consensus winners of the 2003 ARS Convention. We anticipate a unique, competitive and beautiful show - drawing you back several times during the convention.

Photo Contest

Attendees are encouraged to bring their outstanding rhododendron pictures and enter the photography contest. Whether professional or amateur, using film or digital media, all are encouraged to enter this judged show which includes a "peoples' choice" award. Our fellow members take incredible rhododendron pictures!


You are invited to tour the treasures of the Pacific Northwest! Tour a few hours or tour all day - the convention offers tours for everyone. Eleven different tours will visit thirty destinations! Start by "touring" the synopses below. Take your time, enjoy the descriptions, but reserve early! Space is limited and it is going on a first-come, first-served basis. We'll do our best to add a bus or find you a second choice if a tour fills up, but we will need your email address to work with you. Busses won't be wheelchair accessible, and some gardens are more accessible than others. Check with the tour committee if this is of concern. Dress in warm and water resistant layers. Bring lots of film. Come prepared for the great spring weather that rhododendrons love.

TOUR A - RURAL TREASURES (Thursday, $30, 2 stops, lunch included, 4 hours)

This tour features two choice rhododendron gardens in typical Northwest settings. When Bob and Deanna Johnson completed their overseas assignments in Saudi Arabia, they retired to Olympia seeking a "fixer-upper" they could personalize. They purchased a cabin situated in a magnificent forest overlooking Fish Trap Inlet on Puget Sound. After completely remodeling the house, they turned their attention to the surrounding 2.5 acres. Their landscaping demonstrates the Pacific Northwest-Asian style at its best. From the large deck and lawn area overlooking the saltwater inlet, paths and bridges meander through plantings of rhododendrons and azaleas (over 250 at last count), Japanese maples, dogwoods, moss beds and bamboo. A wide variety of companion plants add color and interest throughout the year. Dry streambeds of boulders, cobbles and gravel serpentine through the plantings and channel runoff during rainy weather. "Common sense" gardening techniques emphasize minimal use of chemicals. Don't miss the immaculate compost pile and work area!

Robert and Deanna
Johnson's garden
Tour A: Robert and Deanna Johnson's garden.
Photo by Anna Tourtillott

Lori and Steve Gangsei continue to develop their rhododendron collection and landscape at Melrose Nursery started in 1957 by her parents, John and Shirley Eichelser. John was a well known rhododendron, azalea and kalmia hybridizer. Lori and Steve have added much to the original plantings - now beautiful walls of spring color. Stroll paths through the gazebo area and new gardens as they actively expand plantings on this 27-acre site. The original rhododendron 'Lori Eichelser' (Brandt, Janeck 1966) has grown to a very impressive size and flowers profusely in the spring. The landscape supports a wide variety of plant material due to its proximity to the moderating influence of Puget Sound. Additionally, Lori grows vireyas and tender rhododendrons in a heated greenhouse.

TOUR B - TREASURES IN AND BY THE WATER (Thursday, $20, 2 stops, no lunch, 3 hours)

This tour features two impressively landscaped gardens and a koi farm. Visit the recently landscaped garden owned by Gary and Laurie Brigg s . With magnificently placed boulders amid a collection of choice specimen plants, it is the starting point of an arboretum that will extend a quarter mile along the shoreline of Ward Lake. The landscape is terraced above the lake with streams, ponds and a beautiful curtain waterfall. View one of the oldest Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira' maples in the US.
Blue Water Koi is a commercial koi farm with an extravagant hardscape of massive boulders. Enjoy the fine selection of plants and a stream cascading over 7-foot waterfalls to a pond full of choice Japanese koi. View a wide range of pond equipment and koi in large indoor ponds.

Gary and Laurie Briggs' home
Tour B: Gary and Laurie Briggs' home.
Photo by Anna Tourtillott

TOUR C - TREASURES OF SPRING (Thursday, $40, 3 stops, lunch included, bus limit 30 people, 6.5 hours)

This tour features two incredible gardens and a commercial bulb farm. Bill and Myrna Brackman's garden, which has expanded to three acres over twenty-five years, is a lovely example of rhododendron and exotic tree plantings in a native, Northwest setting. The garden features hundreds of rhododendrons consisting of hybrids, some of which were created by the Brackmans, and species rhododendrons grown from ARS seed collected in the wild. It also features various specimens of true fir, Japanese maple and spruce, accented by a collection of birdhouses. This is a collector's garden you will certainly enjoy.

Setsuyo Mulcahey's garden, perched high on a hillside overlooking the Green River Valley, was highlighted recently in a Seattle Times newspaper article as a "garden of perfection." With surprises at every turn, it is truly a work of art twenty seven years in the making. Including hundreds of rhododendrons, thirty-eight different Japanese maples, tree peonies, iris, lewisias, dogwood, magnolia, daphne, miniature clematis and elm - it was immediately pronounced by one of our tour committee members as her "favorite garden-ever!" Special garden features include a pond, waterfall, and bridge, pergola draped with wisteria, Japanese statuary, rock gardens and quiet sitting areas. Plants are pruned to shape and scale on a regular basis, and the beds are manicured. A walk up a gentle slope provides an elevated perspective of the garden topped with a view of Mount Rainier. Tour size is limited to ensure a tranquil experience.

The Puyallup Valley is a renowned center of commercial bulb propagation in our state. The rich valley bottom soils are actually mudflow deposits off Mount Rainier, a 14,410-foot glaciated volcano dominating our regional skyline. Simon Van Lierop came to this country as a salesman for a Dutch bulb company and founded his own bulb farm in 1934 at its present location. Extensive display plantings and surrounding fields in bloom are incredibly beautiful at Van Lierop Bulb Farm . Imagine large wooden windmills and you could be in Holland!

Van Lierop's Bulb Farm
Tour C: Van Lierop's Bulb Farm.
Photo by Anna Tourtillott

TOUR D - TREASURES TO THE WESTWARD-HO! (Thursday, $40, 3 stops, lunch included, 5.75 hours)

This tour features a huge commercial nursery operation and two outstanding rhododendron gardens. Briggs Nursery has relocated the bulk of its operation to a 400-acre site west of Olympia in the fertile Chehalis River valley, shaped by the enormous melt-water outflow from the Puget Sound basin during the last ice age. This type of commercial nursery tour usually is not available to the public. Ride "hay ride" style aboard tractor drawn carts and tour the large-scale commercial operation. Six hundred growing houses and millions of plants in containers are a spectacle of color and organization! This visit will certainly impress participants and quell most enthusiasts' dreams of a commercial nursery empire.

 Briggs Nursery West
Tour D: Briggs Nursery West, Porter, WA.
Photo by Bobbie Powell

Next visit the Johansen garden in the rural Wynoochee River valley. Started as a retirement project, Barbara Johansen has created a mosaic of plantings in a rural woodland setting that she loves to share. The garden gets a major addition every year and features a gazebo, bonsai house, cottage garden, and a collection of 150 species and 350 hybrid rhododendrons. Also seen, as highlights are native western red cedars.

The final stop is quite simply a large ravine inhabited by a huge number of mature and colorful rhododendrons. This amazing showstopper was recently highlighted in Sunset Magazine. Alma Manenica has continually expanded her garden over forty years and onto her neighbors' acreage when she ran out of room on her own property! A natural stream winds through the bottom of the garden. It is full of primroses, skunk cabbage, gunnera and is such a perfect habitat for rhododendrons that they self-sow in the moist shade. Magnolias, Japanese maples, camellias and kousa dogwoods reflect her love of "everything that grows here" in this spectacular garden. Located near the head of Grays Harbor and the Washington coast, 80 annual inches of rain really make these rhododendrons grow. The most adventuresome folks may climb down into this paradise, but wear appropriate boots! 'Hearts Delight' was hybridized and registered by Alma, and is a perfect description of her garden.

TOUR E - OLMSTED TREASURES (Thursday, $70, 2 stops, lunch at the Castle included, 5.25 hours)

This tour features two impressive estates, the unique experience of a "high tea" lunch, and landscaping influenced by the famous Olmsted Brothers firm of New York.

Enjoy a "high tea" style lunch in the 27,000-square-foot Thornewood Castle . This Tudor Gothic manor on the shores of American Lake was built between 1908 and 1911 and features oak woodwork and glass from a European castle. It was the filming site of the recent Steven King TV movie "Rose Red." After lunch, explore the castle rooms and grounds. The Olmsted Brothers designed the walled Victorian garden. This unique castle is a place you won't want to leave, and there's room for you to stay with twenty-eight bedrooms and twenty-two baths!

 Thornewood Castle B & B
Tour E: Thornewood Castle B & B.
Photo by Bill Tourtillott

Next visit lovely Lakewold Gardens on the shores of Gravelly Lake. The former 10-acre estate of Eulalie Wagner, now operated by a non-profit foundation, features design work by both the Olmsted Brothers and noted landscape architect Thomas Church. Specialty gardens grace this estate featuring one of the Northwest's largest collections of rhododendrons and Japanese maples. Stately old-growth Douglas fir inhabits the estate, with one notable "wolf tree" displaying seven trunks and giant sweeping limbs! A hillside stream and surprising variety of plant material, Japanese empress tree, wisteria with thick trunks, gazebo and fountain are captivating. The grounds also feature a full range gift shop capped with a cedar shake roof thickly carpeted with moss.

TOUR F - RURAL TREASURES Repeat of Tour A. (Thursday, $30, 2 stops, lunch included, 4 hours) See previous description.

TOUR G - TREASURES IN AND BY THE WATER Repeat of Tour B. (Thursday, $20, 2 stops, lunch not included, 3 hours) See previous description.

TOUR H - TREASURES TO THE NORTH (Friday, $50, 3 stops, lunch included, 8.5 hours)

This is a renowned road trip! Your tour route first crosses the Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge with fabulous views of Puget Sound. Travel up the Kitsap Peninsula along various inlets of Puget Sound and see forested areas with understory of native Rhododendron macrophyllum . Then enjoy the unique experience of crossing mile-long Hood Canal Floating Bridge. It is designed with a segment, which opens for the passage of large ships. Warren and Patty Berg's secluded rhododendron sanctuary, located along the saltwater shore of Toandos Peninsula, will prove to be a memorable tour opportunity. The Bergs have assembled an impressive and mature collection of species rhododendrons as a result of many expeditions to China and access to other seed sources. Extensive plantings under a high canopy of Douglas fir are complemented with specimens growing in lathe houses. If this wasn't enough, son Chris has created new garden areas: the simulation of a cold mountain stream cascading over granite boulders into a pond, a Japanese garden with special conifers, and a bonsai house filled with his own miniature vignettes.

 Tour H: Water feature
at Warren and Pat Berg's
Tour H: Water feature at Warren and Pat Berg's
Photo by Anna Tourtillott

The tour passes by Mount Walker on the eastern edge of the Olympic Mountains with extensive areas of R. macrophyllum . The second major stop on the tour is seven-acre Whitney Gardens and Nursery . The spectacular display garden features mature rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, maples, camellias and kalmias, canopied by mature trees. Originated by Bill and Fay Whitney in 1955, the garden is now operated by Anne and Ellie Sather. The nursery carries over 1,000 varieties of rhododendron hybrids and species. This is a unique opportunity to load the bus bays with special plants!

The tour returns to Olympia via a nationally recognized scenic highway along scenic Hood Canal, a glacier carved deep-water arm of Puget Sound. Note: If a second bus is required, the trip will be run in reverse.

TOUR I - TREASURES TO THE SOUTH (Friday, $50, 3 stops, lunch included, 8 hours)

This fascinating road trip features two private collections and a unique nursery!

Perched on a ridge overlooking the Columbia River valley in Longview is the 2-acre hillside garden of Burt and Polly Mendlin . The garden has a spectacular view of the city and river below and from the road, the shattered cone of nearby Mount St. Helens. (Sorry - it's too early in the year to visit the volcano). Approximately 1,000 rhododendrons, including 200 of their own hybrids, cover one acre. A pond and an easy strolling garden are in the front yard. The rather steep slope below the house has a collection of rhododendrons accessible on hillside trails, or viewable as a palette of color from the back deck of the house.

Next, enjoy Carl and Linda Nys' collection of species and hybrids in a woodland ravine setting. The grounds are very enjoyable and will serve as a beautiful and restful lunch stop. Trails weave through the mature rhododendron plantings. An impressive footbridge crosses a ravine to access rhododendron plantings on the opposite side.

Finally visit the unforgettable Evergreen Terrace Gardens , owned, designed and constructed by Pete and Lisa Mahnke. Pete uses his logging equipment to collect and install huge basalt columns in a spectacular hardscape. The culmination of the work is the "Henge Garden," reservable for weddings and memorials, and landscaped with a collection of rare and unusual plants. The natural look of the large upper Pond Garden, surrounded by wetlands and native species, belies its man-made origins and unique collection of plants including arisaemas and May apples. Pete may be a logger by vocation, but he can talk Latin plant names with the most resolute plant collector! Treat yourself to a horticultural tour of this unforgettable garden and take the opportunity to purchase unique plants from the nursery.

Terrace Nursery
Tour I: Evergreen Terrace Nursery.
Photo by Anna Tourtillott

TOUR J - TREASURES OF SPECIES AND GLASS (Friday, $47, 2 stops, lunch included, 6.75 hours)

This is a must-see tour for rhododendron species aficionados, and those who love the artistry of bonsai and glass.

Visit the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden covering 22 woodland acres. Over 10,000 specimens of rhododendron species make this a premier collection. In addition, the garden features a pond area, an alpine area recreating conditions on a Himalayan slope, and a fine collection of companion plants. If you've been here before, you know it's worth many return trips as it changes throughout the seasons and from year to year. The garden also features a plant sales area and a very tempting gift shop. An additional attraction at this site is the world-famous Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection owned by the Weyerhaeuser Company. Relatively new displays and those hundreds of years old will certainly captivate your wonder and imagination. Most displays reside outside year round. An environmentally controlled display room contains the more tender displays. All are outstanding examples of the bonsai art.

Species Botanical Garden
Tour J: Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden Alpine area.
Photo by RSF

The recently opened Museum of Glass in Tacoma is the final stop and features Dale Chihuly's world-renowned glass art. Walk under a huge "Ceiling of Glass" and then across the 500-foot "Bridge of Glass" displaying an amazing collection of 120 glass creations from baroque to ultra-modern and towers of translucent blue cubes. This walkway connects downtown Tacoma with the Museum above the Foss Waterway. Sweeping stairways, decks and additional outdoor glass exhibits are impressive. Inside the museum, watch as experienced teams demonstrate glass blowing in a unique theater - a multi-story "hot shop." Its cone shape is inspired by lumber mill waste wood burners commonly seen throughout the region in former times, and by the cone shape of nearby Mount Rainier. Also enjoy the current art exhibit, interpretive exhibits, and gift shop to complete the visit at the Museum of Glass.

Bridge of Glass, Tacoma, WA.
Tour K: Chihuly's Bridge of Glass, Tacoma, WA.
Photo by Bobbie Powell

TOUR K - TREASURES OF HISTORY AND GLASS (Friday, $38, 1 stop, lunch on your own, 5.5 hours) This tour includes the newly opened Museum of Glass, and allows time for walking access to Tacoma's waterfront and downtown area. The tour begins with the unique and beautiful Museum of Glass as described previously in Tour J. Then you are on your own! Visit the Chihuly display at restored Union Station, now a courthouse - free entry but picture ID required. The Washington State History Museum is also nearby - entrance fee required. Visit local shops and have lunch on your own at the Glass Museum cafe, a microbrewery or other restaurants. All these features are clustered within easy walking distance and will easily fill the time allowed.

TOUR L - UNIQUE TREASURES OF OLYMPIA (Friday, $30, 3 stops, lunch on your own, 6 hours)

This tour includes sites found locally in Olympia. The tour first heads downtown to view Capitol Lake and Heritage Park still under development along the lake and extending up to the State Capitol building. After a drive through the beautiful capitol grounds, disembark at the Olympia Farmers' Market. Enjoy the local crafts and produce. Stroll the waterfront's Percival Landing boardwalk to the interactive fountain plaza, survey moored boats, critique unique statuary and look for seals. Also at the Market is Gallacci Garden, created by Thurston County Master Gardeners in a water collection basin serving the area. Taste some great local coffee at Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters. Surprise your friends by bringing home a pound of coffee along with your rhododendrons. Have lunch on your own at the Market or at one of numerous waterfront restaurants.

 Olympia Farmers' Market
Tour L: Olympia Farmers' Market.
Photo by Bobbie Powell

Next stop is Art and Peggy Zabel's garden where you will count among the approximately 6,000 people who walk through their backyard during the month of May and enjoy rhododendrons at their finest. Each May for the past twenty-five years they have opened their 3-acre woodland park to the public. Then head to the Miller Brewing Company for a fine tour and sampling of their products.

TOUR M - TREASURES OF HOPS AND WATER - A WEE NIP (Friday, $10, 1 stop, no lunch, 2 hours)

This is a nice "sampling" tour. "Hop" on the bus for a short ride to the Miller Brewing Company for a fine tour and sampling of the beverage. Browse the gift shop. The bus will drive through adjacent Tumwater Falls Park for a view of established rhododendrons and the Bruce Briggs Memorial planting. This is the site of the Olympia Chapter's annual rhododendron show and truss display.

 Miller Brewery
Tour M: Miller Brewery from Tumwater Park.
Photo by Bobbie Powell


All District 3 ARS chapters welcome you to our part of the rhododendron world in May 2003! We are honored to host the 2003 ARS International Convention and look forward to greeting you in Olympia.