The World in Your Garden
One of the biggest dilemmas rhododendron gardeners face is whether or not to leave their own gardens for a few days to attend the American Rhododendron Society's Annual Convention. Usually held in April or May, and alternating between the East and West coasts, these meetings aim to bring together 200-300 rhododendron enthusiasts to visit public and private gardens at their peak of perfection. This year the Annual Convention is being held in Vancouver, WA on May 11-15, 2011.
Garden hosts often prepare for several years for these visits, grooming and primping their gardens to be seen by visitors from all over the world. Plants are labeled, garden maps printed, neighbors roped in to help guide and sometimes even goodies baked for the guests. These are after all some of the best of the best private gardens and some of the most knowledgeable people in the world about the genus Rhododendron.
Our first conference, 20+ years ago, was a big unknown. Would we feel out of place or overwhelmed by the level of technical detail? On the contrary, we found that this group of garden lovers were the most friendly and welcoming people imaginable. This wasn't a technical conference this was a group of like minded individuals who gathered to enjoy the fruits of each others' labor. It wasn't a series of lectures with garden visits, it was definitely a unique opportunity for garden visits with a several interesting lectures thrown in.
Most conferences seek to bring in speakers who are well regarded in their home area, but rarely available in the conference area. This way a lot of local people will be interested in their presentations as well as those like us who have become addicted to traveling from far away. This year the keynote speaker is Hartwig Schepker from Bremen - famous for being the organizer of the last year's fabulous 75th Anniversary Conference of the German Rhododendron Society. It promises to be a very entertaining evening.
Read more about the ARS Annual Convention, and don't hesitate for a moment to leave your garden for a few days to go to the Vancouver, WA event, you'll have no regrets.