QBARS - v9n4 American Rhododendron Society Test Garden to Have Exhibition Coolhouse

A.R.S. Test Garden to Have Exhibition-Coolhouse
By Ruth K Hansen

Fig. 49.  The proposed Coolhouse with surrounding exhibition facilities to
be erected at the Society Test Garden at Crystal Springs Lake Island.

The construction of an Exhibition-Coolhouse in the Test Garden, Crystal Springs Lake Island, Portland, Oregon is at last in the realm of reality. The accompanying artist sketch of the proposed building shows the dual purpose for which it will be used. The Coolhouse portion will be domed, 40 x 40 feet, steel framed, and covered with plastic, thus assuring ample light yet freedom from breakage during winter storms. It will be electrically and automatically heated, with heat turned on at 38 degrees F. The ventilating system will also be automatically fan controlled.
In this Coolhouse will be grown our large collection of the tender varieties of rhododendrons mainly those in the R. maddenii and Rh. edgeworthii series. It was the donation of these plants to the Test Garden just two years ago that prompted the society's efforts towards a Coolhouse. Most of these tender varieties will be maintained in red-wood tubs while others will be permanently planted in the soil. The central ceiling height of the building will be approximately 21 feet, thus providing ample space for the growth of the tree types.
The porch-like structure around the Coolhouse will serve as the Exhibition unit where future Society Shows will be held. This section will be 14 feet wide along the sides and 17 feet wide across the front and will provide 1,830 sq. ft. of area. In case of necessity portions of the Coolhouse can also be used for exhibits.
This type of building was selected mainly from an economical aspect. Construction will start sometime during the winter months and the structure will be in readiness for the Spring Show. Again it will be necessary to call on volunteer help from members of the Portland Chapter to offset additional expenses by helping with the actual construction work. The Society has had several "drives" for contributions in an attempt to raise funds, also the entire proceeds from the Portland Chapter Shows have been turned over for this purpose, but the entire amount has not been fully raised; however the work contemplated for this year will encompass the barest essentials. As more funds are raised from future shows and otherwise, the entire building can be lengthened in 8 foot sections and additional improvements can be made, such as enclosing the Exhibition Unit in glass.
For the benefit of new members who have recently joined the Society, this Test Garden is sponsored and planted by the A.R.S. All labor has been donated, by a group of interested workers from the Portland Chapter. All maintenance work such as watering and weeding is done under the City Park Bureau who maintain a keeper for this purpose.
The aims of the Test Garden are: To test rhododendrons and azaleas subject to the rules prescribed by the American Rhododendron Society; to grant awards to worthy new varieties; and to acquaint the public with all kinds of rhododendrons thus serving as an educational as well as a scientific project." To date there are actually 16 new American hybrids in test and of that number two have received their P.A. Awards: R. 'Rose Elf' and R. 'Snow Lady'. They are now eligible for the highest award, the Test Garden Certificate.
The fifth anniversary of the first planting in the A.R.S. Test Garden at Crystal Springs Lake Island is October 21. On this day just five years ago the first rhododendron plants were moved into the Garden. These consisted of two 15 foot, 40 year old R. 'Cynthias'. At that time the area to be planted looked empty and large, and one wondered if enough rhododendrons would ever be forthcoming to fully plant the Island. But they did come, not as small plants but rather as full grown specimens. The majority of plants were donated by local nurserymen, collectors and amateurs, but a few were purchased. Under the favorable growing conditions of this idyllic little Island, whose surrounding waters help temperate the air during the winter period, the rhododendrons have flourished and have taken on that look of "belonging." This is their home among the naturalistic surroundings of native plant and tree growth.
In this brief span of time the plants grew so well that it became necessary to expand the garden to the adjoining peninsula across the lake. This development was started last Fall and will continue indefinitely as it becomes necessary to relieve the congestion in the Test Garden.
This National Test Garden has become more than just a Test area. It is now a real Rhododendron Botanical Garden were one may see representatives of 40 of the 43 series in which the species are classed. There are now 245 varieties of species actually growing in this garden and as time goes on it is hoped to have as complete a collection of species as is possible to find anywhere.
As for the Hybrids, there are 304 varieties to be seen which include many of the old iron-clads as well as the newer introductions. Including the rhododendron species and hybrids, the azalea species and hybrids there are well over 2500 plants growing in this Test Garden. It offers the finest educational opportunity for the study of the Genus Rhododendron to anyone interested in the wide variances of plant growth found in this Family.
To the regular visitor of this Garden, possibly the long blooming period is the most outstanding factor. When one considers that rhododendrons are in bloom from the end of January to August it shows the vast possibilities of this wonderful plant group. One plant in particular put on a superb show all by itself last Spring. That was R. spinuliferum which bloomed from the end of April to the end of June. On July 2nd a check was made of the plants in bloom at that time and a total of 35 were recorded. Others still in bud which did not bloom till the end of July and the first of August included R. auriculatum , R. 'Lodauric', R. 'Europa' and some discolor crosses.
The development of the Test Garden means long range planning, but at present there are several large and important plantings to be made. If time and man power permit at least one will be started this Winter; however the construction of the Exhibition-Coolhouse will be given precedence for the time being.