Progress Report On The A. R. S. Trial Garden
For The Annual Meeting, May 21, 1953
By J. G. Bacher
Ladies and Gentlemen:
This report is to make you members acquainted with the work which has been accomplished at the Trial Garden - installed for furthering a wider understanding of the rhododendron world as a whole-and also as a demonstration garden in order that everyone might be able to observe closely the nature of these shrubs and plant forms.
In this unique spot - the only place in all the world - they may be observed in relation to each other, as well as to their suitability for home garden use and application to modern land design. In addition, visitors may obtain information on nomenclature, and also get some slight idea as to the unlimited numbers of these plants and their behavior under climatic conditions which prevail at this most favored spot in the Pacific Northwest.
Fig. 24. Preparing beds for the rhododendrons at the Trial Garden at Crystal Springs
Island early in 1953.
Also, I may point out the dormant or unexpressed amount of good-will that has become manifest to the amazement of everyone visiting our Trial Garden at the Island. It is this manifestation of generosity on behalf of so many of our membership that makes the performance of this project so outstanding. For, the world over, nowhere will one ever see such an elegance of rhododendrons assembled, under more ideal conditions. And, when one stops to think, not 3 full years have elapsed since the Garden was started-due to the vision supreme of our dear President - and it becomes a pleasant task to point out the accomplishments.
Since last fall, work has been carried on by volunteers, practically every week end; and a truly inspiring Rock Garden has been worked out to a generous extent. Some of these rocks were hauled in, from as far as 140 miles, on the Santiam Pass, by truck; and we must remember, as well, the hard labor of gathering these rocks on the lava fields in that area. Other rocks were brought by truck from the region of Battle Ground, Washington. Some came from Camas. Others were donated by local gardeners who realized that their supplies of suitable large rocks were worthy of a much better role than simply a home-garden decoration. Any one who has purchased such material these days and has paid skilled labor for placing them the proper way will understand the enormity of gifts of this material and the skill and hard muscular efforts expended in the creation of this rock garden setting which is so very appropriate for the rhododendron group in the lower grower, smaller, and prostrate forms. The unique forms of this family may have a wide bearing influence on future gardening everywhere, in suitable environments, which includes the majority of our population centers.
It was a happy thought to provide our dwarf rhododendrons with a truly ideal setting, and this reporter cannot claim any credit for its conception because he was climbing Mt. Juneau in Alaska at the time the President called a committee meeting to consider the advisability of incorporating a rock garden section in our Trial Garden. The result of that committee meeting has the hearty approval of every visitor; and one must see it to fully comprehend its beauty.
No claims may be made for immediate effect, as fortunately the hand of time and nature's skill are going to do a great share in creating the beautiful and charming spots in the dwarf species and hybrid rhododendrons. However, the most difficult task for us, is to find and assemble the proper material, and due to this fact alone, the gardening world has almost completely overlooked the small and slow growing species because haste and size have so engrossed the attention of our plant fanciers that the production of the little rhododendrons has been largely ignored in the past except for a few keen minds who have encouraged the growing and production of them.
Our generous and widely versed member, Mrs. A. C. U. Berry, has been our greatest helper in supplying good numbers of really rare Alpine rhododendrons which are not grown anywhere else in the entire nation. Mrs. Berry is one of the few inspired personalities who sees charms unlimited in the smallest forms of the rhododendron plant world; and she has been able to pursue this interest for over 30 years, and to this fact, credit must be given, for her knowledge of such species.
Intermittent visits to the Trial Garden have shown great progress taking place; and from observations at the Show, incidentally, the first staged in the Trial Garden, the garden seems to prove extremely satisfactory to everyone. The crowds were estimated at over 25,000 attending this Show. All were surprised and amazed at the Trial Garden and were particularly delighted to discover that they could bring their friends to visit this marvelous spot of beauty, at their convenience, any time, all summer long.
One of the pleasing phases of this Trial Garden is the congenial and welcome attitude of the Park Bureau itself and the enthusiastic support given to the volunteers of our American Rhododendron Society.
The first shrubs in bloom this year were observed on February 1st when Rhododendron lutescens , over 5 feet high, was a blaze of golden yellow soon followed by the magnificent R. sutchuenense , which showed glorious clusters of its impressive flowers for a period of nearly 6 weeks. Then, in no time, seemingly, there was a bedlam of colors of every hue and form. All this in spite of blustery weather!
Now, the month of May reveals massive mounds of colors unlimited. Without going into lengthy detail regarding varieties and names, it may be said that all seem well and happy without any special effort having been made in their behalf. Here facts speak for themselves. There are thousands of specimens. The actual number of species and horticultural varieties is as yet unknown by the writer; but labeling efforts continue and, in time, it will be possible to learn the name of every plant on the Island Trial Garden. (Lengthy applause)