Rhododendrons in the Woodland

Bob Findlay forwarded this post. It is a little bit of history timely at this time of year when the rhododendrons are coming out.

Bob Findlay forwarded this post. It is a little bit of history, timely at this time of year when the rhododendrons are coming out.

Ten years ago, Tanya DeMarsh Dodson wrote about Ed Dunn in recognition of his centennial year.  Her description of his horticultural interest in Rhododendrons follows:

 “Including rhododendrons in his perennial and woodland gardens came as a result of the eye Ed developed for design from the plantings in his father’s garden, from his study of Northwest flora, and from the many gardens he visited.  As he indicated in an article he wrote during his tenure as President of the American Rhododendron Society, Dunn felt that rhododendrons were an ideal plant for informal woodland gardens.  Almost describing his own garden, he suggested good planting design might specify the placement of dwarf rhododendrons, pastel-blooming rhodies of the triforum series, and large-leaved species and hybrid rhododendrons in the dappled shade of large trees where they might add touches of color along paths curving through swaths of native ground covers.

As Dunn developed his garden, he became more and more active in horticultural organizations and developed acquaintances with nurserymen in the Seattle area.  Many of them, such as Halfdan Lem, who lived within two miles of Dunn, were actively involved in hybridizing rhododendrons.   Dunn joined the Seattle Rhododendron Society, founded in 1946, associated with the group of nurserymen-rhododendron hybridizers who were members of the “RumDum Club”, and became president of the Society in the 1950s.

He also became active in the Arboretum Foundation, perhaps in part through these nurserymen’s ties with the then-Director of the Arboretum, Brian Mulligan.  While president of the Arboretum Foundation from 1957-1960, Dunn and Mulligan guided the creation of the Japanese Garden, which opened in 1960.  In 1958 he also received the honor of having a rhododendron named for him.  Rhododendron ‘Edward Dunn’ with a particularly beautiful orange-yellow flower, was hybridized by Endre Ostbo.  Like many others in the Rhododendron Society, Dunn shoed his plants in annual rhododendron exhibits and began hybridizing himself.  In 1965 he was elected president of the American Rhododendron Society, a position he held until 1969.

During his presidency, Dunn traveled widely in North America, Europe, and elsewhere, representing the Society and the Pacific Northwest in horticultural circles on several continents. The American Rhododendron Society awarded him its highest honor, a gold medal, in 1971, in part for his contributions to the revitalization of the organization.  Well aware of the need for a collection of the forms of species rhododendrons here on the West Coast, Dunn was active in the group that founded the Rhododendron Species Foundation and instrumental in the eventual location of the garden in Federal Way.  Working together once again, he and Mulligan were most responsible for the Seattle Rhododendron Society’s acquiring the Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens on Whidbey Island in 1982.”


Caption:  Photo from the Dunn Gardens Archive of Rhododendron ‘Ed Dunn’ taken by Ed Dunn in his garden in the 1960s – it is still there for you to find and enjoy!