Save The Azaleas at the U.S. National Arboretum

rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)November 22, 2010

The Gardens Unit Leader has made the unbelievable decision to destroy most of the azaleas on Mt. Hamilton as well as the National Boxwood Collection, the Perennial Collection including the Daylily collection, Peony Collection, and Daffodil Collection. This is insanity. They are going to spend money removing these plants. The azalea display is maintained by one employee and a group of volunteers that work all through the year.

The Glenn Dale Azalea display on Mt. Hamilton is draws thousands of visitors every spring. It contains many valuable hybrids created by Ben Morrison in the 30's and 40's. It was the nexus of hardy evergreen azalea development.

You can help save the azaleas at the U.S. National Arboretum. See

Don Hyatt has created a great fact sheet:

Save The Azaleas Fact Sheet

Here is a link that might be useful: Washington Gardener Blog: Save the Azaleas at the U.S. National Arboretum

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This is beyond belief. Thank you for spreading the word. I will be doing a lot of letter writing over the weekend. If money is the issue, would it not be a bigger cost saving to get rid of Scott Aker? I am outraged.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 10:54AM
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maryneedssleep(5a (PA))

Considered a Facebook page to spread the message? Cheesy as it sounds, it would be an efficient way to spread the message. If you don't use Facebook, would you like help in creating a page?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2010 at 10:13AM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Hopefully the public outcry will have the desired effect.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2010 at 9:34PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The pressure is working. There is a Facebook page at:

Many editorials have been written:

The USDA says they have instructed the US NA to not do anything until they arrange a meeting with the American Rhododendron Society, the Azalea Society of America, the Arboretum interim director, and the USDA officials.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nov. 24, 2010: From Aaron Cook, Good News, A Temporary Reprieve

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 12:00AM
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maryneedssleep(5a (PA))

Glad to hear it! Thanks for the update.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 9:59AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

They should also consult with the Urban Forestry community. The ramifications of removing the azaleas from the root/soil interrelationship (rhizosphere) could be devasting for the existing trees.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 2:17PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Check "What's New" at to see latest posts including letters from Representative Norton, Friends of the National Arboretum Chair Jeanne Connelly, and National Bonsai Federation President Felix Laughlin.

Here is a link that might be useful: What's New at

    Bookmark   December 10, 2010 at 3:42PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The Washington Post published an editorial today about the imminent destruction of azaleas at the Arboretum's Glenn Dale Hillside.

Here is a link that might be useful: Trims at National Arboretum could mar the cultural landscape

    Bookmark   December 11, 2010 at 10:32AM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

>People who support reducing the number of plant collections at the Arboretum believe that the garden administration has finally come to its senses and that these changes would allow more native plants to be installedNot the location to be satisfying the limited vision of the natives-only crowd. Plenty of nature parks and other suitable places for that elsewhere.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 3:18PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Also, the Arboretum doesn't have a space problem, it has a money problem. Since the azaleas are maintained by volunteers, they are not the problem. Good intentions of growing more native plants aren't practical since they would need funding which isn't there.

There are many great native plants gardens. Just here in SE PA are:
Bartram's Garden near Philadelphia,
Mt. Cuba Center near Wilmington,
Welkinweir near Pottstown,
Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve near New Hope,
Brandywine Conservancy near Chadds Ford, and
Tyler Arboretum near Media.

The main significance of the Glenn Dale Azalea collection is that it is the product of the most massive azalea breeding project ever undertaken and led to the first practical family of hardy evergreen azaleas.

The Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC, came up with a proposal of last resort:

Here is a link that might be useful: Magnolia Plantation offers to collect cuttings if the unthinkable occurs.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 4:30PM
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Still have heard no response from The Arboretum on Magnolia Gardens, and the Great Gardens of America Preservation Alliance's request for permission to propagate the azaleas to insure their survival. 3 of our sister gardens have already stated they would be interested in planting the collection to help preserve them. Everyone interested in helping can contact Colien Hefferan, The Arboretums new director and ask her to grant the request.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 8:51PM
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I just learned of this controversy through a gardening friend, and I'm appalled. I'll bet this couldn't happen in the UK, where horticulture is so treasured. I am president of an independent garden club, and will get the word out to all our members. Has anyone started a fund for contributions?

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 10:29PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The Friends of the National Arboretum maintain control of private funds given to the National Arboretum. They are on board with this problem and are also working for a proper resolution. I feel just giving the arboretum money will make the problem worse. They will then cut federal funding. The FONA group tries to make sure their funds go for the purpose designated. The current problem is because a private source gave the Arboretum funds for 2 gardeners in the Asian Valley. The Arboretum didn't add 2 gardens, they just stop funding 2 gardeners that were already there and used the money for two existing positions. Now the private funding stopped and they are using this as an excuse to spend a fortune on destroying plants.

Check out an editorial the FONA director coauthored at:

Washington Post - 12-5-2010

Here is a link that might be useful: Friends of the National Arboretum

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 11:32PM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

This being the National Arboretum - as opposed to one identified with a smaller area such as a state or county - as far as I'm concerned the collections there should belong to the entire citizenry and be held and maintained in trust for that large and important group. The facility should be an international showcase with a nice big budget, unfettered by the kind of small time stuff that has been revealed on this thread. That the box, azalea etc. collections now apparently under the ax would even be considered for such a fate is


    Bookmark   January 20, 2011 at 10:23PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

I have a feeling that the Department of Agriculture is not the correct agency to be handling the National Arboretum any more. Rather than being plant scientists as they were in the past, they are plant pathologists today. They only want to kill things, not preserve them and display them to the public.

The National Arboretum should be placed in the Department of Interior where they know that taxpayers are their clients and not just a nuisance.

If the Department of Agriculture knew that their negative attitude was going to reduce their funding, they might get a better attitude. They apparently have too many people in offices thinking up bad ideas rather than being out in the field carrying out their mandate doing the jobs that need to be done.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 10:10AM
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