& Awards

History of the American Rhododendron Society

Part 1: History of the Founding the ARS and the major ARS Awards.
During World War II, the isolation of the US from plant societies in Great Britain caused interest to spike in the formation of a rhododendron society in America.  Efforts on both the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic Coast led to the formation of the ARS in 1945.  Award medals were presented to those that contributed the most to the Genus Rhododendron.  Includes lists of ARS Past Presidents, Executive Secretaries, Executive Directors, and ARS Chapters.

Part 2: History of the ARS Publications and Plant Registration.
The lifeblood of any organization is its publications.  The annual Yearbook started in 1945.  The ARS Quarterly Bulletin started in 1947 and became the sole publication in 1950.  Starting in 1957 the Bulletin began publishing the ARS Plant Registry.  In 1982, the Bulletin became the Journal of the ARS.

Part 3: History of the ARS Test Gardens and Chapter Gardens.
The ARS wished to create it own rating system in the US rather than use that of the RHS.  This led to the creation of the ARS National Test Garden in 1951 which became Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, Oregon, and two other ARS Test Gardens at the University of Washington and Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia.  Soon there were many Chapter Gardens worldwide.

Part 4: History of the ARS Endowment Fund.
Several attempts were made over the years to form an Endowment Fund to insure the funding of office and publication expenses of the ARS.  Finally, in 2000, after the Society received a $320,000 bequest from Dr. John Swisher the fund generated significant income.

Part 5: History of the ARS Annual Conventions and Cut Flower Shows.
From the very beginning, rhododendron shows were very popular.  The first Annual ARS Convention was in 1961 when the International Rhododendron Conference of 1961 was held in Portland, Oregon.  Subsequently such conventions were held annually each spring and alternated between the east coast and the west coast.

Part 6: History of the Rhododendron Species Foundation.
The ARS Species Project which started in 1962, led to the formation of the Rhododendron Species Foundation in 1964, a non-ARS entity which was started by the ARS.  Today the Rhododendron Species Foundation and Garden in Federal Way, WA, has over 700 species from around the world.

Part 7: History of the ARS Seed Exchange.
In 1963, the ARS Seed Exchange started under the supervision of Esther Berry.  It has continued under the capable hands of a number of dedicated ARS members.  It has grown to be global in scope and refined to the point of using traceable sources.

Part 8: History of the Rhododendron Research Foundation.
The ARS formed a Research Committee in 1970.  This committee followed research that impacted rhododendrons and reported on it to ARS members.  In 1975, the ARS Rhododendron Research Foundation was formed to fund research projects each year.

Part 9: History of the ARS Pollen Exchange.
Marthaann Mayer started the Pollen Bank in 1975 as a New York Chapter project.  At the request of August Kehr, who was then president of the American Rhododendron Society, the chapter pollen bank became the ARS Pollen Bank.

Please send additions and corrections to the ARS history editor.

updated 5/5/2016