About MARS (Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society)
Who Are We?
Founded in 1989, 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. Visitors are welcome at all regular meetings.
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 members-only 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!
Even if you can’t make it to regular meetings, you can still find the latest news and photos in our newsletters, as well as on our Facebook page. For even more bright and beautiful blooms, check out our What’s Blooming page.
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 outstanding local gardens which best show the range of gardening opportunities in our area.
Our Propagation Group produces a wide range of rhododendrons, from heirloom varieties no longer available in stores to good old garden standbys to rare and unusual types. This project is in its early stages so we don’t have rhodos to sell to the public yet, but stay tuned!
We also support Milner Gardens & Woodland, donating plants and providing volunteer labour for grounds maintenance and development of new gardens. Our most recent undertaking is our contribution of species rhododendrons and ongoing labour to develop the Greig Rhododendron Species Garden.
MARS does not keep any membership fees for the local club. All membership fees go to the ARS, and all our local 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 used 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.