Portland Chapter ARS – General Information

Portland Chapter Meetings

Portland ARS chapter meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month, September through May.

Meetings are held at All Saints Episcopal Church, 4033 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland, Oregon. The location is one-half mile east of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Meetings begin with an informal social half-hour at 7:00 PM. There is short business meeting at 7:30 PM, followed by our featured presentation.

Programs for the 2017 – 2018 season

September 21st, 2017

Dennis Bottemiller, RSBG
Rooting the Proverbial Pencil: tricks of the trade for propagating difficult rhododendrons.

Dennis Bottemiller’s presentation will use standard methods for propagating cuttings as a basis for experimenting with plants that are known to be difficult.  He will discuss some of the biological reasons that plants form roots, and how that information can lead to experimental approaches from the mundane to the bizarre.  Dennis’ style of presentation encourages participation by the audience unusually well.  Come armed with questions and we will have a fun and lively discussion.

Dennis began propagating rhododendrons at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden as an undergraduate intern in 1987.  After graduating from Washington State University in 1989 with a degree in production horticulture, he joined the RSBG full time.  With the exception of a brief hiatus to manage the W.W. Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma, he has remained at RSBG, where he is now Manager of the Nursery & Propagation Manager.  He was also heavily involved in building the Rutherford Conservatory at RSBG, and in maintaining it since.  He is widely known for his corny sense of humor – corn was his original botanical fascination – and for his exceptional skills as a propagator.

October 19th, 2017

Maria Stewart, Dover Nursery
Indumentum: Persistent, Plastered, Woolly, Tomentose.

Maria Stewart will explore the wonderful world of indumentum displayed on rhododendron foliage. Species rhododendrons have adorned themselves with attractive indumentum through the ages. Some hybrids have inherited these trichomes, which is the botanical term for these fine hairs. Maria will use photos and commentary to explain how nature has provided protection for rhododendrons that, at the same time, adds to their beauty.

Maria first encountered her love of plants in her grandmother's flower garden. She has nurtured plants for all of her life, and students as a teacher in elementary school for 31 years. She is co-owner of the Dover Nursery in Sandy, which grows over 1,000 varieties of rhododendrons to supply garden centers and landscape companies. She has made numerous contributions to the ARS. Since she joined the Portland Chapter in 1980, she has held almost every position available, including two years as President. She has participated in organizing several Western Regional Conferences. She was Co-Chair of the 50th Anniversary Convention in 1995, and is now planning the 75th Anniversary Convention for 2020.

November 16th, 2017

James Cassidy, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University
Soil: what it is and how it works.

Most people have only a vague idea of what soil is and how it works.  James Cassidy will discuss the fundamentals that all of us should know.  His talk will include what nutrients are, how soil stores water and nutrients, and the reason that we and our rhododendrons are alive.

James Cassidy comes from a decidedly non-traditional background.  His 30 years in the music industry included cofounding the band Information Society (InSoc), for whom he played bass and keyboards from the early 1980’s to 1992.  He then diverted to fisheries science, earning degrees at Mt. Hood Community College and Oregon State University, followed by his master’s degree in crop and soil science at OSU.  He has now been an Instructor of Soil Science at OSU for over 12 years.  His dynamic presentations and passion for soil have made his introductory class heavily subscribed, with over 200 students enrolled each term.  He is also the faculty advisor for the wildly popular OSU Organic Growers Club.  At the beginning of its 17th season, more than 300 student volunteers run a farm that cultivates over 50 different fruits and vegetables.

December 21st, 2017

Portland Chapter Winter Solstice Party
Potluck Dinner and Gift Exchange

January 18th, 2018

Wally Reed - Salem Chapter, ARS
Mapping Your Garden.

Any of our more experienced members will tell you that the best place to start a garden is with a good map. Wally Reed agrees, and elaborates. Regardless of your level of experience, you have to know first what to map. The raw land, or the previous user’s plant layout, most often defines what you have to work with in making a garden. Producing a map at any stage of your garden’s evolution – before you start, during its development, when you think you’re done, as well as whenever change occurs - involves the same procedures, but with much more data and data-revisions as time proceeds.

Wally brings particular expertise to this subject. We all know him as President for Life of the Willamette Chapter-ARS, and a major force in the development of the Rhododendron Hillside in Bush’s Pasture Park, across the street from his home is Salem. Before moving to Salem, he enjoyed a long career conducting research and teaching at the Environmental Sciences Department of the University of Virginia. His research focused on the management of land use and air quality, but also on geographic information systems. He is unusually well qualified to discuss an issue that is fundamental for anyone seriously interested in gardening.

February 15th, 2018

Loren Russell
Kalmiopsis - Lilla Leach's 'Azalea'

On the occasion of our annual Companion Plant Auction, Loren Russell will discuss Lilla Leach’s azalea, Kalmiopsis leachiana. Most of us know well the Leach Botanical Garden in Southeast Portland, the former home of Lilla and her husband John. Not all of us know the story of their annual summer trips to the Siskiyou Mountains, where Lilla pursued her botanical passion, and John managed their team of mules. There should be no mistake about which Leach discovered Kalmiopsis. On that day in 1930, Lilla commented that “I was in the lead where I usually walk.”

Loren Russell is a Northwesterner, born, bred, educated, employed, and now happily retired in these parts. His doctorate in entomology is from OSU, after which he worked for the EPA in Corvallis. He has a long-standing interest in gardening that has only recently been surpassed by his passion for bicycling. He is an experienced presenter, having served as National Speaker for the North American Rock Garden Society in 2000, and given presentations at numerous of NARGS’ chapters throughout the West. His talk will emphasize Kalmiopsis in the wild, its status as the only genus of higher plants that is restricted to Oregon, and its connection with Oregon's geological history.

March 15th, 2018

John Weagle, Atlantic Rhododendron & Horticultural Society
175 Years of Rhododendrons in Nova Scotia

Our speaker for the March meeting has been gardening in Halifax, Nova Scotia since childhood. Nova Scotia, or Acadia as it was then known, was first settled by the French in 1605. For 150 years, the Acadians developed the rich interior farmlands, reclaiming tidal land by an ingenious system of dikes, much of which remains functional to this day. In 1748, the Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle ceded Acadia to the English. Coastal Nova Scotia, with its cool, foggy summers, is a surprising haven for rhododendrons. Once established, they require little maintenance and no irrigation. He will trace the early quest of the native Rhododendron maximum and cultivation of Ironclads from 1850 onward. The climate of Nova Scotia, but primarily the work of pioneer rhododendron hybridizers from 1950 to the present, will be his focus, with a glimpse of what the future might have in store.

John Weagle worked for nearly 30 years as a buyer for horticultural companies in B.C. and Halifax. His big advance as a gardener came when he decided to ignore all the books that painted a grim picture of horticulture on the wind-swept, fog-bound coast of Nova Scotia. In the early 70’s, good friends introduced him to hybridizing rhododendrons and azaleas, which he has been breeding since the late 70’s. His interests extend generally to the Family Ericaceae, which does well in coastal Nova Scotia, specifically ranging from bamboos to Shortia. With the help of his skilled partner Ken Shannik, who operates Insigne Gardens, they maintain two city gardens, a woodland garden 60 miles from the city, and a new garden that they are starting in a mild area on an island near Yarmouth. He owes their vast collection of plants, hardy and tender, to the generosity of his many contacts worldwide. Now retired, he is a well-recognized plantsman and source of insightful information, such as “(R. camtschaticum) is more difficult to spell than it is to grow.” He is a recipient of the Leslie Hancock Award and The Hybridizer’s Award of the Rhododendron Society of Canada. He has spoken across Canada, the USA, at the International Rhododendron Symposium in Bergen, Norway and at the Botanic Garden in Tromsø, Norway.

April 19th, 2018

Mike Stewart, Dover Nursery
Dwarf Rhododendrons.

Although we continue to marvel at the wall of flowers displayed by such classic giants as ‘Cynthia’ and ‘Pink Pearl’, much interest has shifted to smaller rhododendrons. Mike Stewart will discuss these plants, including both species and the hybrids derived come from them.

Mike and his wife, Maria, own Dover Nursery, where they have propagated and grown more than 1,200 different hybrid and species rhododendrons, shipping some 40,000 plants each spring to garden centers throughout the U.S. and Canada. He has also held just about every position relevant to rhododendrons in this country, having served as President of the Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, President of the national ARS, and President of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden. The ARS has recognized his contributions to the cultivation and preservation of rhododendrons, and for his efforts in informing the public. He has received the bronze metal, which is the highest award provided by a local chapter, and the gold medal, the national society’s highest honor, for his accomplishments. He is a talented photographer and natural speaker widely acknowledged for the quality of his presentations.

May 18th, 2018

Dennis O'Malley
The State of the Chapter

In 2008, Dennis O’Malley was looking for a deciduous azalea to replace one that he had killed, perhaps 'Golden Eagle'.  He happened upon an online reference to Van Veen Nursery, which was unknown to him and surprisingly close to where he lives.  He called.  Kathy Van Veen said she didn't have 'Golden Eagle,' but invited him over anyway.  Over a delightful few hours of conversation, he received Kathy's grand tour of the Nursery and the family history of the Van Veens.  Dennis was immediately hooked and joined the Portland Chapter of the ARS that afternoon.

Ten years later, his two year term as Chapter President is coming to a close.  He has graciously agreed to briefly review the "State of the Chapter" at the May meeting.  In keeping with the full banquet and awards program that is traditional for May, he promises to keep it short.