Report on the study of rhododendrons, azaleas and native plants on the east coast of the U.S.A.
By Lance Ingram
This report has been written on the completion of a travel scholarship to the East Coast of the United States of America by Lance Ingram, Diploma student at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The duration of the visit was for approximately four and a half weeks and throughout the time spent in the country the study of rhododendrons, azaleas and native plants was undertaken in both cultivated situations and in the wild.
The start of the visit was in Asheville (North Carolina), where the Appalachian chain of mountains are found just west of the city. These are the tallest on the east coast (Mt. Mitchel being 6,000 feet), in addition to being some of the oldest in the world (believed to be 600 million years). Parallel to the Appalachians range is the Blue Ridge Mountains with a parkway winding through scenic views and a botanical paradise and advantage was taken of these treasures whilst visiting the area. These factors, put together with half a million acres of America’s most popular park, the Great Smokie, provide a region where it is not surprising to see over 1,400 varieties of flowering plants, including 11 native Rhododendrons. The Great Smokie National Park is also a sanctuary for the world’s finest example of temperate forest.
The annual American Rhododendron Society convention was held in Asheville this year, which I attended. The aim of the convention was to group together enthusiasts from all over the world to cover all manner of topics from propagation to pest and diseases as well as visits to near by gardens of interest to see these plants growing.
The National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., was visited next. Here they hold a botanical collection which has educational and research uses, as well as considerable high horticultural value. A network of roads in the grounds enables the visitor to travel from place to place in comparatively short times.
Longwood, in Philadelphia, was the following stop over. This garden is not a botanical garden, but one for display and currently the construction of a native Azalea display is under way. This garden differed in their approach to the way plants are used as it was ornamental only, as opposed to a botanical collection. Both types of gardens are of importance to my study.
Long island, New York, was the last part of the States before returning to the U.K. and this area gave the opportunity to visit a nature reserve, thus giving an introduction to the flora and fauna of the island.
The information gained from discussions, observation and from reading literature on these plants has enabled the progression in a systematic project on rhododendrons and hopefully too in assisting Kew and Wakehurst Place in their work with rhododendrons.
To conclude. . . the time spent in the United States of America was of benefit to the work I am undertaking at Kew and to my future career. I hope that the information that was collected will be able to be of some use to both Kew and Wakehurst Place in the rhododendron and azalea collections that they hold. It is also hoped that valuable contacts have been made that will be of use to all parties in the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to visit the States, where people are friendly and welcoming and the country has so much to offer. No wonder I came away feeling impressed with not only the places visited, but also horticulture in general.
To end I wish to thank everybody who have supported me financially and who have helped me to organise the arrangements which enabled this travel scholarship to be possible.