If you are not aware yet about this bizarre situation please read link below.
Here is a link that might be useful: Save the Azaleas
I hadn't heard about it and bizarre is indeed an appropriate term. I hope the public outcry is heard.
Ego you beat me to it.. Thank you
I almost didn't believe this, so I searched the arb site and found nothing there, but did find some articles that were published about the announcement, in the Washington Post. A major source of private funding is coming to an end, and the director has decided that this step will allow him to cut 2 (out of 20) full time gardeners.
It's such a ridiculous step, it makes me wonder if he's grandstanding, threatening to take our such a visible (and low-maintenance) part of the arboretum.
Here is a link that might be useful: announcement at Washington Post
Visit 'Save the Azaleas' site and see how Don Hyatt
easily beats all Scott Aker's arguments.
Don't miss the Dr. W.Ackerman letter in a 'What's New' section.
This is truly shocking--and equally shocking that, despite all the garden organizations I belong to and publications I get, this is the first I have heard about it. Why aren't they all over this?
And it's not just the azalea collection but the National Arboretum's famous national boxwood collection, the peonies, daylilies and daffodils.
What a shortsighted and disastrous plan. All of us who care about plants and gardens need to get involved, if only by spreading the word as George has done and by emailing and contacting the decision-makers.
I just received the latest Plant Delights Nursery January 24, 2011 E-Newsletter and in it Tony Avent has a different take on the azalea issue (scroll about half way down), i.e.
"There has recently been a big uproar in the nation's capital over a plan by the US National Arboretum to remove a section of the Glen Dale azalea display. Azaleas lovers across the country have launched an email campaign to prevent the arboretum staff from removing the azaleas. While I like azaleas as much as anyone, I have a different take on the issue. The azaleas in question are breeding rejects from the USDA program which produced the Glen Dale Series. The breeding work of the late Arboretum director, Ben Morrison, produced the release of 454 azalea cultivars. Do we really need more azaleas from a program that has yielded 454 named varieties? When most breeding programs are concluded, the culls (rejects) are typically discarded. For some reason, these culls were never discarded, and over the years folks have become emotionally attached to these plants and consequently are now protesting the plan to discard them. The land at the US National Arboretum is some of the most expensive land in the country and is not the place to maintain a collection of cull azaleas...no matter how nice they look for a couple of weeks in spring. My suggestion to concerned members of the Rhododendron Society and the general public is that they raise private money and pay for the plants to be moved to a nearby park, which has more space and is in an area which is not focused on genetically important collections. Perhaps then, the USNA can replant a complete, labeled collection of the named Glen Dale hybrids along with other important hybrids that can serve as a real reference collection instead of the mass of unlabeled, unnamed plants that exist there now. "
It's a valid point.
Claire, if you read the Q&A section of the site that Ego pointed to, it's apparently not so clear that these are culls.
Even if they are culls, if they are beautiful for two weeks and decent plants the rest of the year, isn't that enough?
Do selected cultivars perform that much better? Just because the selection process is looking for a special attribute, doesn't mean the "rejects" are not worthy plants on other merits.
If I were running the show, I might look for a compromise: thin out the collection, leaving some of it for archival/emotional purposes, moving the rest to some other location and disposing of any declining ones. Although downsizing the mass may obliterate the "show". Can't judge that from here having never seen it.
I am also confused about the purpose of the removal in the first place. Is it to make room for new specimens? If they are so broke, where are the new specimens going to come from to fill the space???
btw, I did hear about this story somewhere in the past few weeks. Can't remember where. I think TV. It was very skimpy.
I'd say the same, Wendy. If those are rejects I'd sure love to have a hillside of rejects like these gracing my land. Those photos are the most gorgeous pictures I've ever seen of azaleas.
Here's my take on it: it sounds like this Scott Aker person wants to build new cushy office space for himself while cutting back on his workload, ie less visitors, less plants to maintain, and more profits for himself, ie not hiring extra employees with the stimulous funds. I really wish that the stimulous money came with mandates for hiring people, which is, after all, what this money was for. Never trust greedy people to do the right thing!
It will be a crime if these lovely azaleas and other plants are destroyed. Arboretums aren't about native trees and bushes imo, but about showing a wide variety of non-natives to visitors who would not otherwise be able to see them. Certainly that was/is the purpose of the Arnold Arboretum. I find this situation immensely disturbing on so many levels.
Transplanting the specimens they want to cull to a nearby park is a good idea. Or they could auction them off - how many private gardeners would love to have a specimen that grew at the National Arboretum and support a good cause? Or they could put the plants on Freecycle or Craigslist, and have people come and dig them up - make a donation while they're at it! LOL, j/k on the last thing, sort of.
I too am confused as to what they want to do with the space that will be freed up, but some native gardens would be nice. However, I don't think tax $$ should be spent to remove plants that are non-invasive (like Azaleas and peonies). There are already enough truly invasive species out there that we are spending billions of tax $$ to control.
The unfortunate thing is that they want to do nothing with the area. They want to spend money removing the azaleas with axes, saws and herbicides so they can leave it bare. This is the USDA that promotes erosion control, etc. If they did nothing, volunteers would come in and keep it within bounds, but they want to spend money to destroy it. No volunteers will come in to maintain a bare hillside.
Regarding Tony Avent's talk about removing the culls, these are by no means culls. The outstanding Azalea Ben Morrison came from this group after Ben Morrison died. These are about 10,000 plants that were selected from over 70,000 plants as the best plants to come out of the Glenn Dale Azalea project.
We can smell victory in reversing this horrible example of mismanagement. But this is only because people have done something. If you want to help, come to savetheazaleas.org and see how you can help. Many people are calling or sending letters or email members of management at the USDA. Their contact information is at savetheazaleas.org under "How To Help". Other people are calling or writing their Senators and Representatives.
Here is a link that might be useful: SaveTheAzaleas.org
Congratulations to Save the Azaleas! Its just mind-boggling that it came to that. You gotta wonder if it was a fund-raising ploy all along! It just makes no sense.
Tony Avent's February 2011 Plant Delights Nursery update has more background information on the National Arboretum's decision to not only destroy the azalea collection but also to:
"de-accession (a botanical word for eliminate) several other plant collections including the boxwood collection, the species daylily collection, and the daffodil collection."
He says that this has happened before:
" If you think this is a new problem, think again. When the ArboretumÃ¯Â¿Â½s world-renown holly breeder, Gene Eisenbeiss passed away in 1997, the Holly Society of America pleaded with the Arboretum to save his unparalleled collection of 400 ilex species. Those pleas fell on deaf ears and the collections were bulldozed."
WHAT is WRONG with these people, and how did they get the job of safeguarding our national treasures at the National Arboretum!? There are no words...