• Date: 22nd January 2016

ARS National Convention in Victoria October 2014

Rhododendrons floral arrangements

Speakers include: Dr. George Argent, from the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh, who is considered the world’s leading authority on Vireya Rhododendrons and Monsieur Frederic Danet from the Jardin Botanique de la Ville de Lyon in France.

Thursday 23rd October at 6.30pm: Public talk at Mueller Hall, National Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Birdwood Ave., South Yarra.

Saturday 25th October at 9.00am: National Convention at the National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda.

Dr George Argent and Fredrique Danet doing the honours with the official opening of the Vireya House

Saturday 25th October at 2.00pm: Official Opening of the Vireya House at NRG followed by a visit to the Ferny Creek Horticultural Society Spring Show.

Saturday 25th at 6.30pm: Convention Dinner at Eastwood Golf Club, Liverpool Rd.,South Kilsyth.

Sunday 26th October: Self drive garden visits at Mt Macedon.

one of the beautiful gardens visited at Mt Macedon

The Conference - an overview of the papers delivered
John O’Hara, Branch President, welcomed the delegates and introduced Francis Crome, the first speaker.

Francis is a Biodiversity Consultant. He has written a series of research articles for Newsletter on Rhododendron species not covered in the usual texts. Francis provided an insightful overview of Rhododendron conservation.
Glenn Maskell, Team Leader, National Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda has made a huge positive difference to the Gardens since his appointment despite a serious shortage of staff and funding. Glenn addressed Botanic Gardens and Olinda Gardens, in particular, as an agent for global conservation.

Dr George Argent spoke on South East Asian Vireyas- exploration and change over 35 years. George is a tropical botanist at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and, until his partial retirement recently, in charge of the Vireya research glass houses. They house the world’s best collection of Vireya Rhododendron species. Over 35 years he has travelled, and collected, plants in South East Asia, particularly vireyas. He is the author of the principal text rhododendrons of subgenus vireya Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 2006. A second edition is about to be published. Gearge has been to Australia a number of times including the ARS Convention in Melbourne in 2000. George had many interesting stories to tell and photographs to illustrate them. He emphasised the threat some species were under and the importance of establishing living collections in cultivation.

Monsieur Frederic Danet spoke on New Guinea-Vireya hotspot and the last frontier for collection and conservation. Frederic is on the staff of Jardin Botanique de la Ville de Lyon, France. Marcia and I visited him there in 2011. Frederic is an unique Vireya collector. He has made many expeditions into Indonesian New Guinea over more than 10 years in his vacations and at his own expense. He was described to me by Lyn Craven as a vert canny botanist. Lyn meant a compliment. Frederic was a co-author with Lyn in several Vireya research articles including Vireya Rhododendrons: their monophyly and classification (Ericaceae, Rhododendron section Schistanthe) Blumea 56, 2011: 153-158. Jardin Botanique de la Ville de Lyon does have a significant collection of pitcher plants (mostly from the families Nepenthaceae and Sarraceniaceae) that are kept in a glass house with a special, non alkaline, water supply. But its location has alkaline soil reflected in an alkaline water supply. So it only has a small number of rhododendrons that can be provided with non alkaline water. Frederic collected pitcher plants as well as vireyas but he has to export his vireya seed to institutions and collectors who can grow them. Lyn Craven, and latterly Andrew Rouse and I, have received the benefit of seed from Frederic. These include new species and fresh collections of previously described species. It was a privilege for me to show Frederic the results of these and for Marcia and I to introduce Frederic and George to Sherbrook Forrest. John and Andrew took Frederic to Wilson’s Promontory following the Convention which all three enjoyed greatly. Frederic spoke to photographs of his collecting expeditions and maps of the relevant locations. He expressed his view that there was much discovery work yet to do there.

Andrew Raper is well known to Victorian members as the proprietor of Rhodoglen Nursery and supplier of Vireyas. He is a camellia expert and a leading light of the Camellia Society. Andrew has a very positive outlook on what plant societies must do to prosper in the very 17difficult 21st century environment. He has spoken to us before.Andrew spoke to The role of commercial growing in Rhododendron conservation. For such a positive man Andrew had a bleak view of commercial rhododendrons including Vireyas. Andrew propagated only 10 or so varieties and was questioning whether to propagate any. He has found, latterly, that herbs are much better value than Vireyas or, even, camellias with a quick turnaround compared those others. We were left in little doubt that preservation of rhododendron species and even hybrids was very much the responsibility of the Society.

Andrew Rouse and John O’Hara spoke to ex-situ conservation at home- the Vireya House at the National Rhododendron Gardens Olinda. Andrew is an Environmental Advisor and John a physicist as well as Branch President. Andrew and John are, of course, very well known to us. They can rightfully be proud of the Vireya house for which they are principally responsible. They described what they had set out to do and their hopes for the facility. There are also the associated facilities, the propagation fogger for growing roots on cuttings and the Rouse House for seed propagation built by John in the design of Andrew’s father John Rouse- as is the Rouse House at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Afternoon tea in another beautiful garden at Mt Macedon