About MARS (Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society)
The Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society (MARS) is a chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, an international organization of rhododendron enthusiasts. Our Society provides members with an opportunity to learn about rhododendrons and companion plants, but most importantly, it allows members to socialize with other gardeners and meet new people with similar interests.
Our regular monthly meetings include a short educational session, often on a seasonally relevant topic, followed by a guest speaker who typically gives a slide show on some aspect of gardening. Educational talks explain how and when to fertilize, how to prune and prepare flower trusses for shows, how to take cuttings, graft and start seeds, and how to grow rhododendrons successfully in our climate, along with presentations on plant and flower parts, their biology, and the systematic organization of the roughly 1000+ species within the genus Rhododendron. Every meeting includes a door prize, a rhododendron raffle, a coffee/tea/cookie break where members can socialize, and usually a dollar table where members can purchase donated rooted cuttings and small plants.
Our meetings are held in Qualicum Beach and our members come from all over the central part of Vancouver Island, especially Parksville, Nanoose, Bowser, and Port Alberni; but we also have members worldwide including three members from New Zealand, from both North and South Islands!
In December and June, our regular meetings are replaced by a Christmas dinner party and a garden potluck dinner party, respectively. There are no meetings in July and August.
In mid-April, the Society organizes a Rhododendron Flower (Truss) Show and Plant Sale, which features early-mid season blooming species. On the Mother’s Day weekend in early May, we organize a Garden Tour of about a dozen local gardens which best show the range of gardening opportunities in our area.
The purpose of the Society is to introduce members and the public to rhododendrons through meetings, garden tours, and flower shows and to provide an opportunity to meet people with similar interests.