QBARS - v5n1 Initial Progress of the Society's Trial Garden

The Initial Progress of The American Rhododendron Society
Trial Garden

A talk given by John Bacher, Chairman of the Trial Garden Committee
at the October 19 Meeting of the ARS

The attainment of a Trial Rhododendron Garden for the Society at Portland Oregon brings some of its problems to your attention if you are a believer in the merits of this aristocrat among evergreen shrubs.
The members of the American Rhododendron Society are exceptionally fortunate in the selection made by our president, Mr. C. Sersanous, for it is, thanks to him, that we have been made aware of the presence of Crystal Springs Lake Island located near the heart of our city at S. E. 28th and Martins St., Portland, Oregon. Until recently none of our membership was aware of the availability of this Island of perhaps 4 acres extent. Our president with the assistance of the Board of Directors undertook the task of getting the city council to pass an ordinance so that the American Rhododendron Society was empowered to establish a Rhododendron Trial Garden on this tract of land. There is a lovely stand of trees of a mixed nature, but fir trees ( Pseudo Tsuga douglasii ) predominate. Now it is the task of our membership to render assistance so that the project of a true Rhododendron garden can be materialized. In this project it is our desire to create a most unique garden devoted to Rhododendrons, and also to use a limited amount of companionate plantings to bring out the fullest measure of beauty of the garden. With the permission for this planting our city park bureau is assuming the maintenance phase of this garden spot, provided the American Rhododendron Society bears all of the costs of installation. Our president has to date personally subscribed for the chief outlays entailed in this project and at his orders a fence for protection against marauders is now in place with gates and locks to be used when the necessity for the same comes into use.

Ground breaking ground at the ARS trial grounds in Portland
Breaking ground for the first rhododendrons
in the ARS trial grounds at Portland, Oregon
Bacher photo

The task of getting the land ready for planting is now underway and as chairman of the project it is my voluntary duty to get this work done. Our secretary Mrs. Ruth Hansen has prepared a provisional plan from the original drawings and survey by our committee member H. J. Slonecker. This plan will be adhered to as it is an ideal layout of the grounds with paths of pleasing pattern well suited to contours of the ground. This is not to be a garden of one person's conception but rather will combine the views of many practical minds, for there is no set schedule or exact spacing of plants for none of us know the extent of the collection that will be assembled here. However real work was started Oct. 9 when our President Mr. Sersanous and assistants with chain saw met your speaker at the grounds and the removal of undesirable trees got underway in effective manner. It was amusing to some extent to meet the first man on the island, a close by resident, who seemed to be alarmed by the sight and existence of a fence, on what he knew as city property. However, my explanation of matters seemed to calm him down and after he also talked to our president, one of his neighbors also became quite enthused over the work. They remained and assisted the entire day in carrying brush and branches on the fire with great gusto. Sure enough the next day he was there again to help to the best of his ability. Such experiences were truly encouraging and with the help of our machinery, trees were removed very rapidly, for the dump truck was able to pull many of the smaller trees down by means of cable lines. Sawing was done by the chain saw which really speeded up matters enormously. Many of the trees needed removal of their low branches and will remain as assets of natural beauty. Much work however is to be done to prepare this island for planting and it is the writer's goal as chairman to appeal for help of members in this work.
It is a rare occasion in a person's life time to be able to assist in the first creative work of a garden in this land of ours. I am of the opinion that future generations will bless our enterprise. Everyone who can personally assist us in this task is more than welcome during this creative period which may take many months. Those members desiring to assist us, if unable to come may engage others to no their share for them or send gifts of money for the hiring of help and supplies of peat moss.
The problem of plants is also one of the needs and I would like to appeal to you members for them. We wish to use quite a number of large specimens for foundation and back ground. The first item of this nature to be presented the A.R.S. are the two large specimens of R. 'Cynthia', gifts to the Society by our past Park superintendent Mr. Keyser. Mr. Keyser has been a most ardent supporter in our plans and efforts to convince the city government of the merit of such a rhododendron garden, for without his knowledge of city rules and regulations and his helpful influence with the city fathers it is doubtful that the Society would have obtained the privilege accorded to us.
It is the desire of the Park Board to secure as many species of the rhododendron family as we can find across the nation, for the species are the foundation of the entire venture in rhododendron culture. It may take quite some time to get them together and then place each in its own preferred spot in the scheme. We do hope that nurserymen especially will make it a point to provide this garden with them, for then they shall become known to all, for plants are to be labeled and listed by donor's names, in the records, and in the future will be most enlightening to future generations. Visits at every opportunity will pay dividends in the observations on the behavior of the plant material and nursery customers may be encouraged to get first band information on rhododendrons from this official garden of our Society.

Moving forty year old R. 'Cynthia'
Moving the large forty year old R. 'Cynthia'
Gift from Mr. Keiser to the ARS Trial Garden
President C.I. Sersanous and Mr. Keiser
in the foreground
Bacher photo

It is the viewpoint of the writer that the hybrid rhododendrons will above all capture the public's favor with their greater color range and especially by their prevalence in nursery markets. The placing of the plants will be conducted with the greatest of diligence but never in any set pattern. for each season will reveal desirable alteration due to growth peculiarities and also color combinations. Rearrangements will be made so that each may find its ideal spot. There is need of getting all the hybrids ever introduced into our country and then when they are growing along side each other it will be an everlasting school for progress in rhododendron culture, and visitors will have much to see and learn every time they go there. Members who desire to contribute to this collection should inform our Secretary of their offers. Delivery of donated plants should be made at times when the planting can be done by those assisting in the work of creating the rhododendron garden. Phone or write to me for details as to time and materials and in this manner secure the essential information to avoid needless delays. The planting of this garden will start immediately upon completion of soil preparation and will be continued until early springĀ  Please bear in mind that this is all free work on my part for the good of the project and the fall and winter season is when I have the most time to devote to it and spring is when I must work elsewhere. I mention this for the reason that it is a frequent custom to let our good will go to the last minute and then find that others have done likewise and a gardener's spring season is so full of work that eventually only a fraction of it gets done right.
Please let us avoid this experience for our open winter season will permit us to do our planting right along, so that with the coming spring a good show will be had even this first year. One important request to all donors of plant material is that each gift should be accompanied by a listing and names of species or varieties with donor's address. This will enable the Society to make permanent records of the contents of the garden along with the names and addresses of the donors. It is one of my own failings to be forgetful and while working in the field the writing hand is usually busy otherwise with the results that transactions are forgotten on the spot and good friends at times wonder why their good deeds are not mentioned.
Age will take its toll of all of us so please bear in mind and help me in the recording matters by listing your gifts on paper as they are furnished for planting.
I feel very positive that we have the will, capacity, plus ability to do an amazing job in providing our city, our state, our country with a monumental garden of rhododendrons that should become famous the world over in due time.