The American Rhododendron Society was founded in 1945 in Portland, Oregon. The Society now has Chapters all over the United States and throughout the world. The Southwestern Oregon Chapter has been continuously active since 1968 when it was formed with 15 charter members. They were: Ida Mae Bone, Mrs. Albert Kohler, James Norman, Mrs. Larry Shutpelz, Carlos Van Elsberg, Mrs. H. D. Wilson, Mrs. F. A. Young, Neil Bone, Howard Hall, Willard Morgan, Dr. Jay Oleary, Edward Sandine, Lois Strong and Dr. & Mrs. Loren Dixon. Our membership today is around 45.
Over the years, the chapter has participated in the beautification of the area by contributing plants and labor to local parks, most notably the establishment with the city of Coos Bay of a rhododendron garden in 1975 in Mingus Park.
While some of our members are very knowledgeable in the rhododendron world, many members of our group have developed rhododendron gardens by learning about the plants as they go along. Our chapter is enthusiastic and willing to share information with others.
We try to make our meetings interesting with slides, visiting speakers and discussions on the culture of rhododendrons. Meetings are open to the public and visitors are welcome. Everyone is encouraged to bring blooms. There is a door prize at the meetings and frequently seedlings and cuttings to share.
Our participation in garden events is evident in the Master Gardener's Seminars, Mother's Day Rhododendron Sunday in the garden at Shore Acres State Park and visits to other garden clubs.
Our main project is our annual judged flower show the last weekend in April in which everyone participates. It is one of the largest shows on the west coast and gardeners from all over the area bring entries. The April 2014 flower show had over 446 floral entries and 13 trophies were awarded. Our first judged flower show took place in 1989.