About MARS (Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society)
Who Are We?
The Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society (MARS) is a chapter of the American Rhododendron Society (ARS), an international organization of rhododendron enthusiasts. Our Society introduces members and the public to rhododendrons through meetings, garden tours, and flower shows; and provides opportunities for members to socialize with other gardeners and meet new people with similar interests.
Meetings And Social Activities
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 a short business meeting. The free MARS library is available at each meeting, too, and there is usually a dollar table where members can purchase donated rooted cuttings and small plants.
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.
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!
Community Involvement And Education
As well as providing services and social activities for our members, our constitution mandates that we raise public awareness of the genus ‘rhododendron’.
To do this, we provide free admission to our annual Rhododendron Flower (Truss) Show and Plant Sale in mid-April, which features early-mid season blooming species. Members, and the public, are invited to bring their best rhodo blooms (known as trusses) to this show to compete for prizes provided by the club.
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.
We also support Milner Gardens & Woodland, donating plants and providing volunteer labour for grounds maintenance and development of new gardens. Our most recent undertaking was our contribution of species rhododendrons and labour to develop the Grieg Rhododendron Species Garden.
From the Milner Gardens & Woodland e-newsletter issued on March 23, 2018: “The goal of the proposed garden would be to highlight the tremendous diversity found within the genus-Rhododendron, including some of the unique and rare species that are threatened in the wild, and representative species from key regions where they are found naturally, and in some cases, are endangered. As most of the historic rhododendrons at Milner Gardens & Woodland are hybrids, the species garden would also highlight many of the parent species of these historic rhododendrons.”
The Grieg Rhododendron Species Garden was officially opened to the public on April 22, 2018 with a ribbon-cutting by Jean Greig, the late Jim Greig’s wife:
Work will continue for some time to complete the Garden’s collection of 250 rhododendrons, along with benches, companion plantings and interpretive signs. MARS is proud to support Milner Gardens & Woodland and the Grieg Rhododendron Species Garden!
MARS does not keep any membership fees for the local club. All membership fees go to the ARS, and all our activities and expenditures are supported by the fund-raising and volunteer efforts of our members.
Constitution And Bylaws
The pink rhododendron at the head of the “At A Glance” column (and the smaller photo of it for section dividers) is ‘Qualicum’s Pride’ (‘Anna’ × ‘Cotton Candy’), a hybrid produced and raised by Lloyd Newcomb at his garden in Snohomish, Washington State.