ARS Emblem

Rhododendron and
Azalea News

ARS Emblem
Winter 2010  Vol. 13  No. 3
ARS Home Page          R&A Index          Plant Tips          People and Events          Gardens          

Ideas for Chapters

The end of an era


The North Island Chapter has a number of outstanding supporters of the ARS with stories about real people and situations.  Chapter member identifying with chapter member.  Unity.  Unity of the highest order.  In March 2007 Robert Argall wrote a story about a Douglas fir and it seems so appropriate to bring this unusual story to the attend of all in tribute to a lover of trees who died recently, Willem Anton Morsink of the Toronto Chapter of the Rhododendron Society of Canada, who loved trees.  Bob wrote:

For over 80 years there has been a baldheaded eagle’s nest on Wireless Road above Kye Bay.  Situated at the top of a very large Douglas fir, strong branches formed a perfect base for the nest.

Baldheaded eagles build the largest nests of any bird on the planet, and the nests can weigh up to one ton.  Conversely, hummingbirds build the smallest nest and weigh just ounces.  I always liked the fact that I had both types of nests close by to observe.  Of the 700 that have been recorded on Vancouver Island, this eagle's nest was the largest one...and had grown to a height of 12 feet.

year after year, the eagles came...

It was, until the 1980's surrounded by firs and quite well hidden.  With the development of the land around it and only 100 feet of height protection, it was subject to stronger winds and had much less protection.  Yet, there it stood year after year with the eagles adding to it each year and raising their young.  It was fascinating to see them fly along Wireless Road...and without missing a beat...break a fairly large size branch off and swoop up to the nest with it.

The eagles often had two young ones and both would reach maturity, unlike so many were the parents unable to feed both.  As they got older, one could see them standing on one of the branches and flapping their wings as they prepared for their first flight.  Their first flight was from the Douglas fir their nest was another Douglas fir that was further along Wireless Road.  This meant that they would pass over my property enroute, squeaking and very unsteady.  I once saw a young eagle trying to land on a branch, grabbing the branch...but not strongly enough; he ended upside down...but still holding onto the branch.  Quite a comical sight!

Christmas eve tragedy...

I have lived on Wireless Road for almost forty years now, and the eagles and their nests have been a part of my life through the seasons' cycles.  The same can be said for others who have moved here as the houses have been built.  So it was with great sadness for all of us when we realized that, on Christmas Eve, being hit with yet another storm, the top quarter of the eagle tree and the nest had come crashing down.

thankfully, they returned...


Fortunately, the eagles are back...but whether they can find a suitable nesting site is uncertain.  The grand old Douglas firs are almost all gone and the balsams are not too reliable.  As always, time will tell.


'Twas the Night Before Christmas...Binetti's version

'Twas the week before Christmas, and
all through the yard, not a gift was given, not even a card.
The tools were hung, in the carport with care,
with hopes that St. Nicholas soon would repair,
The Give a great gift that digs in the dirt,
it's better than any designer-brand shirt.

Now look quick at Santa,
this guy's not so dumb,
Under his glove, he hides a green thumb.
Shovel with blade all rusty and cracked,
the pitchfork still shiny, but handle it lacked.

When out on my lawn, (it's brown and abused)
I could see poor old Santa, looking confused.

No list had been left for Santa to see,
no gardening gifts were under the tree.

But wait...there's still time, it's not
Christmas yet, and gardening gifts
are the quickest to get.

You can forget the silk tie,
the fluffy new sweater,
give something to make the garden grow better.

If she wants a gift shiny,
then don't be a fool,
it's not a dumb diamond,
but a sparkling new tool.
If fragrance is listed you can forget French perfume,
it’s a pile of manure that'll make gardeners swoon.

Give night crawlers, not nightgowns,
the type of hose that gives water.
(Anything for the kitchen is not worth the bother.)

His knees are so dirty,
his back how it aches,
his boots stop on slugs,
(he gives them no breaks.)

The guy only works winter,
you can surely see why,
the rest of the year it’s a gardening high.

Elves plant in the spring,
pull weds merrily all summer,
in fall they all harvest,
but winter's a bummer,

And so Christmas gives Santa a part-time employment,
'Till spring when the blooms are his real life employment.

So, ask the big guy for garden gifts this year,
Seeds, plants, and tools, Santa holds them all dear.

You see malls may be crowded,
vendors hawking their ware,
but visit a nursery, stress-free shopping is there.

Now, Santa's flown off,
to the nursery he goes,
and his voice fills the night
with loud
Hoe!  Hoe!  Hoes!

Merry Christmas from Marianne Binetti


More Christmas!


Jan Snyder of the Portland Chapter has written another delight Christmas gem.  Read on...

'Twas four days before Christmas and
all through the hall
The tables were glowing with candles and boughs.
The music how merry, the punch all aglow.
The air filled with odors of sweet casseroles.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a long forming line, Irv Snyder at the rear.
These rhodie folks spoke not a word
But went straight to their wok
While filling their platters
With laughter and mirth...
I heard them explain as they took their last bite...
Merry Christmas to all and
to all a good night, a good night!

Thanks Jan for giving us some added thoughts of being merry and having friends and family.


Sarah Nichols on gardening


Sarah Nichols in her book, Gardening from the Heart...Why Gardeners Garden, gives her reasons for gardening.  She has some real points and, perhaps, in these dull winter months you, too, personally, will consider by you garden.

  • To me, gardening is the highest form of human endeavor.  Cultivating the earth is one thing that the other animals can't do.  We have this ability to create all this the garden grows, it grows on you and with you.  You end up being the human that's there to tend it.
  • Gardening for me is definitely a love affair...and I have new affairs all the times.  This year it's lilies and rhododendrons.
  • Gardening is constantly changing, and you have to go constantly and change with it.  It takes care, constant nurturing, and staying aware of all the changes the plants go through. These living beings that don't talk or move...they don't speak to you in words, but intuitively so you know what to do for them.
  • It is incredibly nurturing and go out and get dirty.  I have never looked at gardening as work. I enjoy work.  I have that is not drudgery.

Thanks to Sarah for giving us words from her heart.  Just think of gardening as a love affair!  And that gardening is work...but she loves it.  May we find joy as we plan for the Spring of 2011.

--Submitted by the Eugene Chapter


And, the word is lepidote


Most of the flowers on our rhododendrons are gone until next Spring.  Now it is time for enjoyment of other rhodie features.  Among the most interesting leaf structures are those that give the surfaces of the leaves distinctive appearances.

Let's concentrate on one type of structure this time: scales.  Rhododendrons with leaf scales are called lepidote.  It is from the Greek lepidos, scale.  Originally the term applied to the scales of snakes and fish.  The prefix is used in a number of places in biology.  Lepidoptera (scale wing), for example, is the order of insects to which butterflies and moths with their scaly wings belong.

Leidodendron (scale tree) is used by paleontologists to describe a long extinct group of large primitive trees whose poorly developed conifer-like leaves left scars on the fossil surfaces that resemble snake skin.  The fossil scale marks were so distinctive that early collectors mistook Lepidodendron fossils for fossilized snakes.  Lepidodendrons contributed heavily to the formation of the coal deposits in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

scales called trichomes


Scales are one of many types of structures on the surface of leaves.  They fall in a category collectively called trichomes (Greek, trichos, a hair).  Trichomes come in various shapes and have a number of distinct functions.  Many aromatic leaves, such as rosemary, sage, and geranium, carry their scent inside swollen hairs that burst open to release smell.  Nettles have hairs containing an irritant.  The trichomes that we rhododendron enthusiasts are most familiar with are those hairy leaf coverings we term indumentum (Latin: hair covering).

Scales on lepidote rhododendrons are less conspicuous than indumentum and do not contribute a great deal to the appearance of the leaves.  Their function is not known for sure...but they are important in classifying rhododendrons.

Classification of the genus is the next best thing to a nightmare for taxonomists…but the presence of scales or lack of them stands out as a distinct characteristic.  Lepidote and elepidote rhododendrons, each category comprising roughly half of all rhododendron species, are dramatically different.  Their genes are sufficiently different that it is extremely difficult to hybridize between the groups.  The seeds are different.  The flowers open differently.  A large majority of all of the beautifully fragrant rhododendrons we grow in our benign coastal climate in northwestern California are lepidotes.

in summary...


Lepidote rhododendrons are a distinct grouping from elepidotes...AND our gardens would be seriously impoverished without them.  Let's appreciate them this Fall  while we have blossoms on very few of our plants and add scales to the list of interesting features on the leaves of the rhodies in our gardens.


Website...put in your favorites


One of the best rhododendron sites on the Internet is Steve Henning Rhododendron and Azaleas pages.  Steve is from Pennsylvania and his site has been around for years.  This is a well-illustrated site covering all aspects of rhododendron culture, with a particularly strong section on the various problems that can occur.  It is a great place to start, if you are looking for rhododendron information.


A cold night’s blessing

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
a full moon on a dark night,
and the road downhill
all the way to your door.

--An Irish blessing


American Rhododendron Society
Executive Director: P.O. Box 525,  Niagara Falls, NY 14304
Ph: 416-424-1942   Fax: 905-262-1999   E-Mail:
1998-2016, ARS, All rights reserved.