JARS v61n3 - The Vancouver Rhododendron Society, The First 50 Years, Part I

The Vancouver Rhododendron Society, The First 50 Years, Part I
Vancouver. British Columbia

Clive Justice
Clive Justice points to a rhododendron hybrid in
Burnaby's Centennial Rhododendron Garden.
Photo courtesy of the Burnaby Weekly

The Vancouver Rhododendron Society (VRS) was originally founded as the Vancouver B.C. Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society (ARS). In 1954, Desmond Muirhead wrote a letter to Ruth Hansen, the ARS secretary in Portland, Oregon, asking her the procedures to form a chapter of the ARS. Back then these were fairly simple; she wrote: "Sign up ten people at US$10 (Canadian dollars were at par in those years), adopt the ARS constitution and a set of bylaws, and elect table officers and directors." As an ARS chapter the practice was to send the minutes of your meetings to Ruth Hansen and after a bit they would appear in the Quarterly Bulletin of the American Rhododendron Society .
The minutes of the inaugural meeting of the Vancouver Chapter appeared in the October 15,1955, Vol. 9 No. 4, issue of the Bulletin. The meeting was held in the Kerrisdale home (Vine Street at 48th Avenue) of Desmond and Helen Muirhead. Desmond Muirhead was elected president; acting secretary for the inaugural was Len Living, nurseryman of Richmond. Secretary-treasurer elected was Ellen Hailey, lab technician/nurse for Dr. McKee. Present were: William Bradner, nurseryman and gardener, Burnaby; Hyland Barnes, nurseryman, 48th and Blenheim, Vancouver; William Flavelle, manager Flavelle Cedar Mills, North Road, Coquitlam; Cyril Chave, teacher, SW Marine Drive, Vancouver. Cyril Chave and Bill Flavelle were elected directors. Clive Justice, who was working in the office of Desmond Muirhead and Associates, Landscape Architects, also joined. The minutes note that after the elections there was a "general discussion of the aims and enjoyments of the society, the rest of the evening was given over to a very interesting display of colored (sic) slides by Mr. Alleyne Cook."
Charter members of the Vancouver Chapter (or assigned by the ARS to the Vancouver Chapter) who were not present at the inaugural were Bill and Lillian (Lil) Hodgson, University Endowment Lands (UEL), Point Grey; W. Doug Christie, Provincial Horticulturist, Abbotsford; Herbert R. Fullerton, Vancouver; John Manten, nurseryman of White Rock and Mrs. H. R. (Veronica) Milner of Qualicum on Vancouver Island. That same year Robert (Bob) Corbett, nurseryman of Lulu Island, (Richmond), Val B. Johnson, nurseryman, Vancouver, and Eric Langton, teacher, Port Hammond in Maple Ridge, all joined the chapter.
Fifteen members were present for the first (after the inaugural) Vancouver Chapter meeting. It was held at the old art gallery on Georgia Street, west of Burrard in the gallery's lecture room on November 17, 1955. It was, as it turned out, a most auspicious beginning for the chapter. Alleyne Cook introduced our speaker, Mary Greig from Royston on Vancouver Island, not because neither the president nor the vice president could attend that night but because he was the only person in the room who knew her. Alleyne had corresponded with Mary when he was at Sunningdale Nurseries in England before he emigrated to the West Coast and had subsequently visited her at Ted's and her home/nursery up island near Courtney. She grew and sold species rhododendrons, and these were the subjects of her talk. In those days the only people who were interested in growing and buying the species rhodos were Pacific Northwest Americans. Species rhododendrons were still considered unsuitable and difficult plants for the garden. Mary Greig had been long recognized by those south of 49 as a leading authority on the species. I like to think that talk by Mary in 1955 played a part in helping to pave the way for the establishment in Ceperley Park, a part of Vancouver's Stanley Park, of the living plant legacy of rhododendron species that Mary and Ted Greig raised from seed along with a few of the hybrids they created.
However, this rhododendron milestone on the 17th had been overshadowed by the great freeze of November 11th, a week before. Never before or since has such a horrendous climatic holocaust occurred; the temperature dropped from 70F to 0F in 6 hours. It had been a beautiful warm wet fall. A wide range of broadleaved-evergreen trees and shrubs froze to the ground. Even birch trees still in full leaf and Western hemlock had their main branches killed; leaves and needles turned brown as if they had been scorched by fire. One benefit perhaps, though of dubious merit, of the November 11th freeze was that it launched Alleyne Cook and the writer into our future rhododendron writing careers.
In 1967, we jointly authored an ARS Journal article titled "Rhododendrons Arise From the Dead" that documented the rhododendron seedlings mostly of the Rhododendron fortuneii variety that had been lined out in Dr. McKee's Abbotsford back of the mountain retirement garden. These had been killed to the ground in that November 1955 freeze. Left undisturbed since being lined out, some began to sprout and grow vigorously some ten years after the great freeze. McKee, a Vancouver doctor, had raised Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) rhododendron seeds in the late '30s and '40s in his Vancouver garden. Some of these, known as "smokey pinks," are still extant out in the Fraser valley. Ellen Hailey, whose most important job as Dr. McKee's nurse was to administer the pregnancy rabbit test (remember the baby boom), went on to become the mainstay for many years, of the Vancouver Chapter as our secretary-treasurer. When Dr. McKee retired and moved to the hill back of Abbotsford he gave some of his rhodos to the Vancouver Parks Board and these, it is believed, were planted in Queen Elizabeth Park.
In the early '60s we started a chapter display/test Garden. It was located with permission of Bill Livingstone, Vancouver Parks superintendent, in and about the native, open-copsed area of Musqueam Park on the Crown Street side at Marine Drive. We organized several planting Saturdays there and we planted a number of large and small rhodos at the park's woodland edge that were donated by members and local nurseries. Bill Livingstone donated the largest plant, a R. fargesii . The writer gave a big old hybrid, 'Madame Masson'. It wasn't long though until most of the rhodos large and small disappeared, even some whose the roots had been cabled. While we all felt very angry about it, we were not alone in our losses. Henry Eddie's nursery along the west side of the same Musqueam Park had received equal if not greater losses in this wild westside spate of rhododendron rustling. The project was eventually abandoned a few years later.
In those days chapter presidents were members of the ARS Board as Regional Directors and if possible they could attend at their own expense the twice-a-year Board meetings. Cyril Chave became president in 1957, and there were ten new Vancouver Chapter members who had their names posted in the Bulletin. Among them were Evelyn Jack and Nick Weesjes. The highlight of 1957 chapter meetings was a talk and slide show by E. J. (Ed) Trayling of Whalley in Surrey, on the rhododendron gardens he had visited the year previously in the UK and on the continent. These included Exbury, Wisley, Carhaeys, Bodnant, Towercourt and, on the continent, Dietrich Hobbie's Nursery and garden in Oldenburg, Germany; as well, he and Wyn also attended the Truro and Chelsea flower shows.
Bill Flavelle became president in 1958. Member Len Living gave a detailed talk on growing and planting rhodos in the garden while Doug Christie, Provincial Horticulturist, followed with the diseases and pests of rhodos. Ruth Hansen, the ARS secretary and registrar, came up from Portland and gave a talk on the Crystal Springs Portland Test Garden located across from Reed College in Portland that the Portland Chapter had set up as a test and display garden for hybrids and the species.
In 1959 Doug Christie was elected president, and the Vancouver Chapter held its first non-competitive show in the Kerrisdale Community Centre the evening of May 7th. "Represented were seventy-eight different varieties of named hybrids, thirty-nine named species and an equal number of named azaleas as well as many unnamed, a large display of cut bloom from the Vancouver Parks Board and a very representative showing of Dr. McKee's hardy fortune [ R. fortunei seedlings] hybrids," Chapter Secretary Ellen Hailey's statement read in the Bulletin.
Clive Justice became president in 1960; the chapter donated $25 to the Vancouver Public Library to purchase books on rhododendrons along with paying the annual membership fee of $5 so the library could receive the year's four issues of the Bulletin. While the president's previously mentioned article appeared in the 1961 Bulletin, articles by other Vancouver Chapter members began to appear. Len Living's articles on the Mollis azaleas and red rhododendrons in California were in two of the 1960 Bulletins. Alleyne Cook wrote on the late blooming Mollis azaleas of Manchester (Vol. 60, No. 3), while Mary Greig wrote on R. clorops (Vol. 61, No. 2). Doug Christie's article on the McKee hybrids appeared in issue No. 3 of that year.
In 1961 Clive continued as Vancouver Chapter president. It was the year of the first International Rhododendron Conference held in Portland May 11-14, with a number of Vancouver Chapter members attending their first rhododendron convention. Along with the president there was Len Living, Lil Hodgson and Ted and Mary Greig, Mary being one of the conference speakers and Lil Hodgson one of the judges at the Portland Chapter cut truss show. The show at Crystal Springs Gardens was held in conjunction with the convention. We were able to meet and hear some of the rhododendron greats: Harold Fletcher, Regius Keeper of Royal Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, Frank P. Knight, Director of the RHS Gardens at Wisley; Dr. J. S. Yeates, professor of botany and secretary-treasurer of the New Zealand Rhododendron Association (NZRA); and Dietrich Hobbie, rhododendron breeder from Oldenburg, Germany. All were principal speakers. Also attending were Peter Cox of Glendoick, Dr Clement Bowers, Joe Gable, Jock Brydon and Harold J. Clarke, then president of the ARS and editor of the Bulletin.
1961 was also when Vancouver Chapter members with rhododendron hybrids in their gardens were asked to record the precise blooming time and duration of bloom for each of their hybrids. Records were kept on gardens in the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Vancouver Area, Burnaby, the North Shore and the Upper and Lower Fraser Valley. Many of these blooming time records were to form the basis a decade later for the book The Phrenology of Cultivated Rhododendrons in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, published in 1979. It was jointly sponsored and funded by the UBC Botanical Garden, Roy L. Taylor, director, and the Vancouver Chapter of the ARS. It was compiled and written by Dr. Keith L. Wade, head of biology at Capilano College and leading authority on the rhododendrons (vireyas) of New Guinea. The book catalogued the dates of: first colour, first flower open, peak bloom, and end of bloom in six locations for over 600 hybrids and species. The result of this compilation is one of the reasons Vancouver has both a early and a late show.
David Freeman was elected chapter president in 1962. He and his wife, Beulah, had a rhodo garden in the UELands. Being a lawyer, David partially Canadianized our constitution and bylaws as a chapter of a US society. Complete Canadianization did not occur, however, until later. Joseph Rock, the last of the great China plant and rhododendron seed collectors died, in 1962. Dave Freeman continued as chapter president in '63 until late '65 when Dr. G. Bligh, dentist of Dollarton in North Vancouver, took on the presidency; he had joined in 1962 and was among twenty-one new members of the Vancouver Chapter who had joined in the preceding four years. Included also were Dorothy Shaw in Duncan and Dr. Margaret (Mike) Trembath, then living atop the bluffs in South Surrey.
In September 1963, chapter charter member Eric Langton of Haney died quite suddenly. A memorial planting to Eric at the Maple Ridge Hospital was undertaken with plant donations from Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge members, Dr. Bob Rhodes, Fred Collins and Lloyd Smith in particular. Eric's passions were the Mollis and Exbury azaleas; he had made numerous crosses and named some.
Lillian Hodgson was show chairman for the May 8, 1964, cut truss show held in the Oakridge Auditorium and shopping mall at 41st and Cambie, Vancouver. It was the Vancouver Chapter's first judged show under the ARS system, then in use of three Sections, A: Landscape Displays, B: Specimen Plants, C: Cut Blooms and Sprays. A and B had a number of classes each while C had two divisions: Div. I for species trusses and sprays and Div. II for hybrids, each with any number of classes. It is believed this system was produced by the Seattle Chapter.
1966 was the year of the ARS Annual Convention in Tacoma. The Vancouver Chapter took down and set up a large educational display consisting of full size cutout figures of the rhododendron explorers, each standing in a curbed planter with several plants of the species discovered, arranged about their feet (Hooker, Forrest, Kingdon Ward, Fortune and Rock.) There was a printed list of each of their species discoveries with each explorer cutout. There were two educational exhibits in the South Tacoma Mall show; the Vancouver Chapter's entry took second. Disappointingly, considering all the work put into the exhibit, there was little interest shown in the species or the explorers by most ARS members at the convention. However, the highlight of the Tacoma convention was for chapter members Ted and Mary Greig, who were jointly awarded the Society's 20th ARS Gold Medal. At least the ARS saw fit to recognize those who knew and grew the species locally even though those who discovered and introduced them to cultivation remained unrecognized.
1967, Canada's centennial year, was also a banner year for the Vancouver Chapter. With the help of the Burnaby Centennial Commission (the municipality had earlier adopted the rhododendron as its official flower), the chapter staged a spring flower show in Burnaby's municipal ice rink. Large 'Akebono' flowering oriental cherries in 4-foot cubed boxes with seating under and among landscape displays by nurseries, landscape contractors and garden clubs created a park-like setting in the arena. The even, cool condition in the ice rink was a perfect environment for a three-day flower show. Reeve Allan Emmott opened the show and free attendance over the Mother's Day weekend reached one thousand; in those days it was a large turnout for a flower show. Mrs. Grace Conboy (her garden was in South Burnaby) wrote a report that appeared in the Bulletin describing it and the winners of the best rhododendron in the show and the best of the 486 cut trusses entered: "The Best Rhododendron...'Virginia Richards'...a large, singularly outstanding new hybrid...was exhibited by Mr. E. J. Trayling of N. Surrey who apologetically accepted his own trophy, the E. J. Trayling Trophy [Best Plant in the Show]. The Eric Langton Memorial Trophy, donated by the Vancouver Chapter for the Best Azalea Truss was awarded to Mrs. A.J. [Ellen] Haley (sic)for...a bright gold orange Mollis seedling. The B. C. Nursery Trades Association Trophy for the Best Hybrid was also won by Mr. E. J. Trayling with his truss of lovely chartreuse yellow 'Diane'. The Trophy for the best new unnamed Seedling Truss, donated by Mrs. E. M. [Doreen] Lawson (General Chairman of the Combined Committee) was won by Mr. Fred Collins for the cross of 'Hawk' x 'Naomi' (Langton). The Ted Greig [and Mary] Memorial cup donated by Mr. Clive (sic) Justice for the Best Species Truss was won by the Vancouver Parks Commission for a beautiful R. rex with felted leaves."

R. 'Burnaby Bell*' R. 'Lionhart'
Jack Lofthouse's hybrid 'Burnaby Bell'*.
Photo by Jack Lofthouse
Dr. Margaret "Mike" Trembath's hybrid 'Lionhart'.
Photo by M. Trembath

In 1968 Jack Lofthouse was elected president of the chapter. He was among the first chapter members to have registered (1966) one of his crosses. It was aptly named 'Pink Petticoats', a large truss with flowers having frilly-wavy petals. The chapter formed committees to plan and to organize to host the 1970 ARS Annual Meeting and Convention, the first to be held outside the US. Jack Lofthouse was publicity chairman and managed to insert a full-page tentative program and venue (The Bayshore) announcement into the October 1969 Bulletin. Dr. Bob Rhodes was program chairman and arranged for David Leach and the two UBC Taylors, T.M.C. (botany) and Roy L. (Director of the Botanical Gardens) as principal speakers. Lloyd Smith was elected chapter president and so became convention chairman.
During the convention held May 16-18, 1970, Mary Greig and Alleyne Cook led walking tours of the Greig collection of rhodo species and hybrids in Ceperley Park (Stanley Park). ARS President Dr. Carl Phetteplace gave a very long president's address at the closing banquet before he finally got around to awarding the four Gold Medals. The awards went to Bob Tichnor, rhododendron researcher and ARS secretary-treasurer of Pullman, Washington; Koichiro Wada of Yokohama, Japan; Mrs. Robert (Esther) Berry, Grays Harbor Chapter, founder of the ARS Seed Exchange; and our Vancouver Chapter member Evelyn Jack, who was recognized for taking on the task of propagating and growing on the many species cuttings sent from England at the UBC grounds nursery and bound for the Rhododendron Species Foundation garden in the US Pacific Northwest, then a project in the hands of the ARS. In all she was able to propagate over 300 selected ("superior") forms of the species gleaned from English and Scottish gardens of rhododendrons that were unobtainable across the line."

Rhododendron hybrid 'Idealist' over top of 
Olympic Lady Group, taken in the author's garden. Seed capsules on R. macrophyllum
Rhododendron hybrid 'Idealist' over top of
Olympic Lady Group, taken in the author's garden.
Photo by Clive Justice
Seed capsules on R. macrophyllum .
Photo by Clive Justice

Burnaby, the municipality adjoining Vancouver, had an annual Rhododendron Festival for which a beauty contest was held to choose a Burnaby girl to reign as Rhododendron Queen during the festival and promote Burnaby and the rhododendron at civic functions. She would later in the year be in the running for Miss PNE (Pacific National Exhibition). Miss Carolyn Lewis, the Rhododendron Queen for 1970, was presented to the Vancouver Convention and posed for pictures with ARS President Carl Phetteplace and Vancouver Chapter President Lloyd Smith, a Burnaby (Burris Road) nurseryman, (Bulletin Vol. 24, No. 3, page142). It is believed that this was the first and the last beauty queen appearance at an international rhododendron event.
It was the year before the Rhododendron Queen event, in 1969, that Lillian Hodgson began a chapter newsletter. At first these one and two page notes were a spin-off of the happenings at the eight monthly meetings the chapter held each year that previously had appeared rather erratically (if at all in earlier years) in the Bulletin. Membership grew by thirty-one in 1970 and by six more in 1971 when Fred Collins, manual arts teacher of Maple Ridge, became president of the chapter.
An excerpt from the 1971 newsletter Vol. 3, No. 5, records the meeting happenings at the previous to the May show that year. The show was held at the Cowan Art Centre, in Burnaby's Century (rhododendron) Gardens. It is now completely redeveloped and named the (Jack and Doris) Shadbolt Centre. At the April meeting the first Vancouver Chapter ARS Bronze medal was awarded. Editor Lillian wrote: "The highlight of the evening was the presentation to Ed Trayling of the Society's Bronze Medal for his contribution to the chapter in his many years' association with our group. There is always a good woman behind a good man and his wife Wyn has shared in no small way in his enthusiastic work. Too bad we could not 'tip you off' beforehand but we wanted this to be a surprise, and indeed it was! Many of us owe our own successes to the knowledge so generously by this fellow 'rhodaholic'."
On Sunday April 9, 1972, some members of the chapter took the ferry to Victoria to visit the de Mezey garden at the invitation of Albert and his sister Mary. Albert de Mezey was a species and alpine plant collector and his garden was one great rock outcrop with garry oaks, perfect for alpines and small leaved and alpine rhododendrons. The writer still has a superb picture on a 2 X 2 slide of R. forrestii Repens Group in full bloom growing out of a crevice in the de Mezey "bald" taken that day.
At the plant sale that year, the practice began of the 60-40 split on price with the chapter. The chapter did well with their 40 percent for it was able to give $100 to purchase rhododendron hybrids for planting in boxes on the concourse at newly opened Simon Fraser University and $1000 to the UBC Botanical Garden to help establish their now extensive species collection. Over thirty years later the UBC Botanical Garden species collection has grown and been augmented by material from China collected by Asian Garden Curator Peter Warton and others until it is now one of the most extensive rhododendron species collections in North America. The hybrids in boxes on the Simon Fraser concourse are only a little the worse for wear after three decades and are still blooming while the ARS Vancouver Chapter's bronze plaque is still in place on one of the boxes.
The 1970s were maturing years for the Vancouver Chapter. Fred Collins was chapter president and was followed by Dr. Bob Rhodes in the first five years of the decade. Starting with 1975 the society elected our first women president. Francisca (Mrs. E. C.) Darts shared her term with women in the traditional female roles: recording secretary, Edith Lofthouse, and the corresponding secretary, Jean Rhodes. Lillian Hodgson still put out the newsletter and noted that UBC's David Tarrant would be leading a tour to southwest gardens and the Chelsea Garden show in May of '76 for UBC Continuing Education; total cost $1200 Canadian.
Probably it was at this time Francisca began her "Show and Tell" at the beginning of each of the eight meetings held each year. She would bring to the meeting several shrubs or herbaceous perennials (usually in bloom) that she and Ed had raised and had growing in their South Surrey garden. Most had been raised from RHS seed and many were quite unusual and not available. After Ed's death at 92 in 1994, Francisca wisely left their garden to the city of Surrey. She continues to live there while Dartshill is administered and maintained by the Surrey Park Department as a visitor attraction. Her "Show and Tell" is now only infrequent when she attends the occasional Vancouver Chapter meetings. In 1978, Dr. Louis Biro was elected chapter president. He had a medical practice in White Rock (South Surrey).
The November '78 meeting had Keith Wade speak on the Second International Rhododendron meeting held earlier in New York. He was a speaker at the conference. It was at this meeting that saw the presentation of the new rhododendron species classification worked out by Cullen and David Chamberlain from the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh (RBGE). This taxonomic tinkering was controversial among non-botanists, particularly gardeners, at the time. H.H. Davidian also of the RBGE hung onto the Balfourian classification, and published his mighty four volumes on rhododendron species using it. Keith must have impressed the chapter members and directors as he was subsequently elected Vancouver Chapter president; Keith served two years that saw out the '70s.
In 1979 the Vancouver Chapter hosted the ARS Annual Meeting and Convention for the second time. It was held again at the Bayshore. Dr. Ned Brockenbrough of Seattle was president; Alleyne Cook gave the opening talk with his presentation of "Rhododendron Exploration in the Himalayas" while Professor Joseph Ewan of Tulane University spoke on "Rhododendron Exploration in the South Eastern United States." His talk was published in the ARS Bulletin, fall 1979, Vol.33, No. 4. Lil Hodgson's Endowment Lands garden had made the cover of Vol. 33, No. 2, announcing the ARS convention in Vancouver. Prints from two of Mary Comber Miles' 11 x 17 paintings, one of hybrid 'Julie Titcombe' and the other of 'Pacific Glow' (named by Mary) became part of the registration package for each delegate. Both were creations of Hjalmer Larsen of Olympia, Washington. Many signed copies were sold for $15 each after the meeting.
In 1980 Harold Johnson, who lived in Whalley up the road from Vern and "Doc" Finley and the Traylings, became our president. He and Melba perfected the art of growing rhodos in tubs. Ted Van Veen's Rhododendron's in America ($25) and Barber's Rothschild Rhododendrons ($45), were big sellers at the chapter book table. Les Clay explained tissue (meristem) culture of rhodos to members at one meeting while Lill Hodgson gave a slide show of the English rhodo gardens she had visited and photographed on '79 trip to the UK. As a meat broker Harold Johnson honoured all his clients with a large tubbed hybrid rhodo at Christmas. Many as a result became interested and joined after receiving 'Anna Rose Whitney' or 'The Honourable Jean Marie de Montague' and then attended a chapter meeting to get their new-member rhodo.

Rhododendrons at George Fraser's home 
in Ucluelet, BC. Closeup view of hybrids from George 
Fraser's old nursery.
Some of George Fraser's remaining hybrid rhododendrons relocated from his
nursery into a natural hedge in front of his old Ucluelet waterfront home, a
property fronting on the back boat channel into Ucluelet Harbour.
Photo taken in the 1960s by Clive Justice
Close-up view of hybrids from George Fraser's old nursery.

1981 was when the chapter began bus tours of gardens to far away places such as Olympia, Washington, and the Rhododendron Species Foundation Garden in Tacoma. In 1982, when Frank Dorsey became president, membership in the Vancouver Chapter stood at 181. Swelling in the ranks was due in large part to Past President Harold Johnston's recruiting efforts. In '82 the tour was to Oregon (Portland) gardens. The next was to Vancouver Island Victoria area, then in 1984 back down South to Tacoma-Seattle. In 1985 the Vancouver Chapter members voted to re-register as a British Columbia Society with a change of name to the Vancouver Rhododendron Society, a chapter of the ARS with a BC constitution and bylaws that are more in keeping with provincial and Canadian law and practices. As Lil Hodgson, the newsletter editor, wrote, "...contributions to the [ARS] Research Foundation, which are advertised as being tax deductible are not, with us. However, we can give receipts for Income Tax purposes for contributions to many Canadian activities, as the UBC Asian Garden and Van Dusen's Himalayan Garden."
The year before our name change it was our turn to host the ARS Western Regional Conference (a fall weekend). It was the fourth conference since the ARS had placed the ARS chapters into districts and into two regions, East and West. The West Region had four districts: Dist. 1: all of us in BC; Dist. 2: Washington; Dist. 3: Oregon and Northcoast California; and Dist. 4: Central and Southern California. Meg Brown wrote a detailed report on the conference for the Newsletter:
With the theme "The Plant for All Places - Patios to Parks" and 251 registrants, the Western Regional Conference hosted by the Vancouver Chapter got underway October 19 in Richmond, British Columbia. Washington and Oregon were well represented with a good California attendance...The conference began when Vancouver hybridizer Jack Lofthouse, the first night's dinner speaker, presented a pictorial history of his hybrid achievements over the past twenty-five years.
The directors of the two gardens containing Vancouver 's largest rhododendron collections each spoke about his park and led a tour. Roy Forster, curator of Vancouver's Van Dusen Botanical Display Garden, highlighted Van Dusen's new Sino Himalayan garden: "At the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens." Dr. Roy Taylor and his staff have been putting together North America's largest and most comprehensive collection of Asian woody trees and shrubs. Dr. Taylor explained that UBC and the Rhododendron Species Foundation began as sister collections, but with extensive acquisitions UBC now has much additional material and more is always being added.
"Roof Gardening with Rhododendrons" was the theme of Susan Baker, a landscape designer who has lived in one of Vancouver's inner-city condominiums for five years. With no natural canopy to shade the sun or block the wind, an owner's fear of leaky hose bibs and clogged drains, and all garden components hand carried up five flights, roof tops present gardeners with a new set of environmental conditions. Using varieties of container grown plants including lots of rhodos Susan and other roof top growers have created attractive surroundings. Container gardening was likened to bonsai on a large scale.
There were speakers on ericaceous plant propagation by Bruce MacDonald, kitchen tissue culture by Fred Dewald of the Komo Kulshan Chapter, and container growing, soils and fertilizers by Les Clay. [Meg Brown's report closed with mention of those in the chapter who had worked to make a successful fourth Western Regional Conference.] Much thanks and appreciation must go to all the conference organizers and helpers: Les Clay (chairman), Bob and Alice Mann (registrars and treasurers), Horace and Vera West (chapter president), Francisca Dares (displays), Harold and Melba Johnson (hotel arrangements), Bobby Ogden (bus tours) Margaret Charlton. Frank and Mary Dorsey, Vern Finley, Dot Gibson, Lil Hodgson, Ray Kennelly and Bob and Jean Rhodes.

Wanda Justice
This photo of Wanda Justice was used in the author's dedication of his
book to Wanda, his wife, and his daughters and daughters-in-law.

The decade of 1980s saw the chapter award nine Bronze Medals to members for their services to the chapter. These awards were to: Clive Justice, who designed and with Bill Hodgson built the table top knockdown show steps for the chapter shows (Clive had always stored these and all the green beer bottles, Chinese cut glass bud vases and other show paraphernalia at his office on West Boulevard); Ed and Francisca Darts, who both held various chapter posts of treasurer, director, secretary and president; to Melba and Harold Johnson, a joint Bronze for similar long service in chapter posts and Melba's service at the meetings refreshment table; Vern Finley for her many years as show chair and judge; Horace West for his work on the conversion of the chapter to a BC society and as chapter/society president; Leslie (Les) Clay for his many rhodo sales held at his Langley nursery where he gave 30 percent of each plant sales to the chapter and for service as director and chapter president; Jean Rhodes for her long service as chapter corresponding secretary; Frank Dorsey for his column "In-the-know" with both rhodos and alpines and who served as president in '82 and '83. The three Bronze Medals given in the last year of the '80s decade were to Alleyne Cook for his work as show judge and his stewardship of the Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Collection in Ceperley/Stanley Park; to Alice and Robert Mann for their long chapter service as recording secretary and treasurer respectively of the chapter and the regional conference and for organizing the annual bus tours to rhodo gardens in Washington, Oregon and Vancouver Island; to Garth Wedemire, who went on to found the Fraser Valley Chapter.
The very first ARS Silver Medal to be awarded to a Vancouver Chapter member went to Harold Johnson in 1989 for his services as first District 1 Director and ARS Board member. Harold served on the Finance Committee and the Long Term Planning Committee. His service to chapter, district and the ARS was exemplary. Harold was a Rotarian and lived and practiced its motto "Service Above Self" The ARS Silver Medal started out as an award to non-ARS members (Portland nurseryman Capelli, H.H. Davidian, RBG Edinburgh). Fortunately, subsequently it assumed an additional purpose to honour people like Harold.

Clive Justice, a charter member of the Vancouver Chapter and landscape architect, is a heritage tree and rhododendron historian and frequent contributor to the Journal. He received the ARS Gold Medal in 2000.