JARS v60n1 - A Capital Adventure: Joint ARS/ASA Convention

A Capital Adventure: Joint ARS/ASA Convention
May 12-15, 2006
Donald W. Hyatt
McLean, Virginia

Join us in May of 2006 for a Capital Adventure. Hosted in Rockville, Maryland, a nearby suburb of Washington, D.C., this will be the joint annual meeting for both the American Rhododendron Society and the Azalea Society of America. Help us reflect on our past achievements and look forward to exciting new directions and opportunities for the future.
Please note a slight shift in sequence for traditional staging of this convention. We will open the program on Friday evening, May 12, and close Monday morning, May 15, 2006. By spanning the weekend, we were able to secure significant savings on room costs while avoiding rush-hour traffic complexities in our Nation's Capital.

Hotel and Conference Facility
Our convention will be staged at the Double Tree-Rockville Hotel, a first-rate facility with direct access to the Red Line of the Washington Metro Subway. The hotel is conveniently located in the northwest suburbs of Washington, D.C., with easy access from the Capital Beltway, I-495, and Interstate I-270. There is complimentary underground parking for hotel guests.
Three major airports serve the greater Washington area including BWI in Baltimore, MD, Reagan National in Alexandria, VA, and Dulles International in Chantilly, VA. Shuttle and taxi service is available, and airports provide connections to the Metro. Both the MARC train and Amtrak serve Rockville.

Garden Tours
The primary garden tours are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we offer a choice of two tours, but on Sunday there is only one option. After the convention, we also offer an overnight trip into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
Attendees or family members may also decide to extend their stay on either side of the convention to see some of the historic sights in Washington, D.C. Most of the monuments and points of interest are easily reached from the Metro.

Saturday Tour A Private Gardens/Brookside Gardens
Most of the gardens on this tour are nearby, so little time is spent in transit. A major attraction will be Brookside Gardens, a 54-acre world-class public garden developed and operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The landscape includes both formal and informal areas with intimate garden rooms defined by walls, hedges, shrubs, and trees. Major features include multiple formal gardens, a five-acre azalea garden, an aquatic garden, the Japanese Teahouse, two conservatories, and a new visitor's center.

Azaleas in the garden of Dianne 
and James Gregg
Azaleas in the garden of Dianne & James Gregg.
Photo by William C. Miller III

There are five private gardens on this tour. The one-acre garden of Barry and Nancy Bosworth, with its winding paths, small waterfall, and fishpond, has approximately 75 azaleas interspersed with various perennials and wildflowers. The second garden, the wooded landscape of Dianne and James Gregg, showcases azalea plantings that bloom over a long period of time and represent many hybrid families. Jane and Bob Kinzie's garden is a 1 acre property resembling a park with a pond as a centerpiece and hundreds of azaleas and specimen plantings along the winding gravel paths under a canopy of mature trees and shrubs. Surrounding the home of Janet and Bill Miller's shaded half-acre property are hundreds of mature evergreen and deciduous azaleas representing most of the major hybrid groups, both old and new. Glenn and Nancy Thompson's 1-acre diverse landscape has paths leading to individual gardens filled with azaleas and many other plants, all protected by an 8-foot iron fence to keep out the deer.

A new hybrid by Harry Weiskittel Azaleas in the garden of Glenn and 
Nancy Thompson
A new hybrid by Harry Weiskittel, whose garden will be visited on the convention tour.
Photo by Don Hyatt
Azaleas in the garden of Glenn and Nancy Thompson.
Photo by Glenn and Nancy Thompson

Saturday Tour B Baltimore Gardens/U.S. National Arboretum
The alternative Saturday tour will first travel north to Baltimore where visitors will see two larger gardens including 100-acre Marshy Point Nursery, the home of Harry Weiskittel and the wholesale rhododendron and azalea nursery that he and his son, Austin, operate. Surrounding Harry's home is a large rhododendron and azalea display garden showcasing many of his own hybrids. The setting of Marshy Point is very scenic, boasting nearly a mile of shoreline on the northern Chesapeake Bay. A second private garden in the Baltimore area is Dr. Jerry Hudgen's "Fern Dell," a lovely 4.5-acre woodland landscape that borders a rushing stream. In addition to rhododendrons and azaleas, Jerry's garden contains an extensive, well-labeled collection of rare native plants, ferns, wildflowers, and many other horticultural treasures. After lunch, guests will return to Washington, D.C., to spend the rest of the afternoon at the 446-acre U.S. National Arboretum. The Arboretum is well known for the large azalea display on Mount Hamilton where B. Y. Morrison, the Arboretum's first Director, planted many of his Glenn Dale azaleas. The azalea collection has been rejuvenated and expanded by Barbara Bullock, the current azalea curator, who should be around to greet guests. The Arboretum has many other attractions including the recently renovated National Bonsai and Penjing Museum which houses one of the largest collections of miniature trees in North America, the Gotelli dwarf conifer collection, the Asian Valley, Fern Valley, and the National Herb Garden.

Morrison Garden at the U.S. 
National Arboretum
The Morrison Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum
Photo by Don Hyatt

Sunday Tour C - Private Gardens/McCrillis Gardens
On Sunday, we offer only one tour that will visit three larger private gardens in excess of 2 acres, as well as the 5-acre McCrillis Gardens. McCrillis was a private home in an upscale neighborhood that has now become a public garden. It is a premier shade garden featuring masses of mature azaleas, striking specimen trees, and choice companion plants surrounding the original stone house. The private 5-acre rhododendron garden of Ed and Mary Reiley is both a lovely landscape and a test garden with a mature rhododendron collection representing over 775 different cultivars and species, some of which are 20 to 40 years old. In addition to many of Ed's own hybrids that are under evaluation, the garden includes evergreen and deciduous azaleas and many companion plants. Ed is a noted author on horticultural topics, past President of the American Rhododendron Society, and recipient of the ARS Gold Medal.

Vista in the garden of Ed and 
Mary Reiley
Vista in the garden of Ed & Mary Reiley.
Photo by Don Hyatt

Of interest to many of the old guard in our societies will be a nostalgic return to the former home of the late George Harding, one of the founders of the ASA. Many of George's original plantings still remain on the property where Mike and Deb White now operate a retail azalea nursery. Mike is George Harding's grandson.
The third garden is that of Norman and Jean Beaudry, a lovely 2-acre sloping woodland landscape featuring more than 500 rhododendrons and azaleas including a large number of Gable, Dexter, and Cowles hybrids. They have many companion plants including collections of Japanese maples, magnolias, dwarf and larger conifers, wildflowers, and unusual trees.

R. Hardy Giant' and azalea 
Wildfire' in the garden of Norman & Jean Beaudry.
R. Hardy Giant' and azalea Wildfire' in the
garden of Norman & Jean Beaudry.
Photo by Don Hyatt

Post-Convention Tour D: Blue Ridge Mountains
After the convention, we have planned an overnight trip into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This tour will leave early Monday morning, May 15, and return to the hotel by Tuesday evening, May 16, 2006. People who have difficulty walking should be warned that some of the stops have uneven terrain and may require short hikes to fully appreciate the scenery.
The first stop will be Phran's Azalea Trails, the 5-acre azalea garden of Frances and Phil Louer in Haymarket, VA. With over 8,000 azaleas representing 2,790 varieties and 271 hybrid groups, the Louer's have one of the largest azalea collections in the region. Their landscape has approximately 200 small flower beds situated along winding trails in their level wooded garden. The azaleas are arranged to blend in both color and size.
We will then head south to Charlottesville for lunch at historic Michie Tavern. The Tavern's traditional menu includes fried chicken, cornbread, biscuits, and a host of colonial favorites, all served in period settings. After lunch, guests will visit the house and gardens of nearby Monticello, the home of President Thomas Jefferson. In the afternoon, the buses will drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway so people can admire the scenic views. As time permits, we will make occasional stops to see native azaleas, rhododendrons, and other wildflowers up close.
The night's lodging will be at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, a facility well known for its peaceful setting overlooking a lake at the base of the mountain peaks. Dinner will be on your own that night at the excellent and very reasonable Peaks of Otter Restaurant. One warning, though, the lodge is very remote and does not have television or phone service in the rooms. Instead of relying on high-end technologies, enjoy a peaceful walk around the lake, gather in the lodge to talk with friends, or just listen to the birds.
The next morning, the restaurant will serve guests a hearty breakfast buffet before the buses continue south to Roanoke for the next stop, the garden of Paul and Barbara James. This exquisite mountain garden covers approximately 15 acres, but is just part of approximately 1,000 acres of land extending all the way to the mountain peaks in the distance that has been in Paul's family for over 200 years. Paul has the largest collection of the Delp rhododendrons, as well as hybrids from Russell and Velma Haag, George Ring, and many others. He has a spectacular rock garden, as well as superb collections of native and evergreen azaleas, maples, dwarf conifers, and wildflowers.

The Paul James rock garden.
The Paul James rock garden.
Photo by Don Hyatt

After lunch, we will begin our return trip to Rockville, traveling north through the scenic Shenandoah Valley. Buses should be back at the hotel by 6:00 p.m. Tuesday evening, so guests may either extend their stay at the DoubleTree hotel or head for home. Due to the number of rooms at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, space on this tour is limited so please register early. We also request that singles try to find roommates so that we can maximize attendance. Remember, registration deadline is April 5, 2006.

R. periclymenoides 
along the lake at the Peaks of Otter Lodge
Early morning vista with R. periclymenoides along the lake at the Peaks of Otter Lodge.
Photo by Don Hyatt

We have invited a number of distinguished speakers who will address a wide range of topics including horticulture trends, plant exploration, new introductions, and disease control. We will feature Mr. Stanton Gill and Dr. Harold Sweetman on Friday night, Dr. Hartwig Schepker on Saturday night, and Mr. Jim Gardiner on Sunday.
Stanton Gill is a Regional Specialist with the Central Maryland Research and Education Center. He is a tenured Professor with the University of Maryland and Professor of Landscape Technology with Montgomery College. In his talk, he will discuss two exotic pests that pose a severe potential for destruction of our forests: the tiny green colored beetle called the emerald ash borer and the black and white beetle called the Asian long-horned beetle. Mr. Gill will also present a low-risk pesticide approach for integrated pest management with azaleas.
Dr. Harold Sweetman , Executive Director of the Jenkins Arboretum for the past 20 years, has traveled extensively in the pursuit of expanding the arboretum plant collections. He has a Ph.D. in Biology from Boston University and chairs the Research Committee of the American Rhododendron Society. His presentation will discuss wild rhododendron species that have been transformed into tamed hybrids now well suited for our gardens. As Dr. Sweetman discusses hybridizing potential in the genus Rhododendron , he will relate experiences on several explorations that he has taken into the wild including Yunnan (China), Arunachal Pradesh (India), and the Appalachians.
Dr. Hartwig Schepker is the scientific director of the Rhododendronpark Company in Bremen, Germany. This 46-hectare park (114 acres) hosts an extensive collection of rhododendron species and hybrids. It includes the municipal Botanical Garden and Germany's first Green Science Center, botanika , a facility that attempts to visualize the topic "biodiversity" by using the genus Rhododendron as its main example. A horticulturist with a Ph.D. in plant ecology, Dr. Schepker has a keen interest in the natural communities of rhododendrons and their companion plants. He will share with us his thoughts on rhododendron diversity including personal observations in the wild in remote places like Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo, natural stands in mainland and southeast Asia including Nepal and Yunnan, and the Great Smoky Mountains.
Jim Gardiner is Curator of the Royal Horticultural Society Garden at Wisley, a post he has held for nearly 17 years. Prior to that, he trained at the Savill and Valley Gardens, Windsor, the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and the City of Liverpool Botanic Garden. He also served as curator of The Hillier Gardens and Arboretum. A sought-after speaker and prolific writer on all things horticulture, he is particularly noted for his expertise with magnolias. He will profile four gardens of the RHS, Wisley in particular, as he discusses the breadth of plant collections concentrating on rhododendrons and azaleas in the garden, the Rhododendron Trials, and the challenges of growing and promoting the genus.

Informal "Yakety Yaks"
In addition to our formal speakers, we have scheduled time for some shorter, late night mini-sessions and open discussions on topics of interest. One session will focus on native azaleas, beginning with a presentation of an aerial photograph taken of Gregory Bald in peak bloom. As people register for the convention, they may order a copy of that photograph and accompanying CD with digital images of the Gregory Bald azaleas. A second session will focus on hybridizing, leading off with some of the plants developed by local hybridizers in our region. Join us for the discussion, bring some pictures of your own to share, and make some new friends.

The hosting chapters have been actively propagating many of the convention plants for the sale. We are anxious to showcase rare azaleas and rhododendrons from our region including hard-to-find clones, seedlings and selections from the wild, and new introductions from local hybridizers.
We will offer many new rhododendrons and azaleas developed by our local hybridizers including Dr. Sandra McDonald, Pete Vines, Buck Clagett, Joe Klimavicz, Jane Goodrich, George Ring, Augie Kehr, Bob Stewart, Walter Przypek, and others. We will have some rare clones from Joe Gable, Weldon Delp, and Russell and Velma Haag, too. As banquet favors we are raising native azalea and rhododendron seedlings from superior forms observed in the wild.
Since people may not be familiar with varieties in our sale, we are preparing a CD with color images of the plants in bloom that will be available prior to the convention.

We have arranged sumptuous banquets with keynote speakers for both Saturday and Sunday evenings. Saturday will be a less formal buffet featuring two favorites, roast beef, au jus, and grilled salmon with lemon caper sauce. Naturally, the chef will prepare a wide array of elegant side dishes.
The Sunday dinner will be a more formal banquet featuring a choice of entrees: red snapper served with coconut infused Thai rice, or roasted pork tenderloin and lavender wine reduction served with sweet potato stack au gratin. Be sure to save room for dessert, hazelnut torte with Grand Marnier sauce.

Closing Thoughts
Please join us this spring for an exciting joint convention designed to bring our two organizations closer together. We want to encourage younger families in our societies to visit Washington, D.C., so we are waiving the basic registration fee for children under 12 when accompanied by parent or guardian.