Convention 2008

2008 convention || overview | how | tours | talks | plants | schedule || related pages


what . . . The 2008 Azalea Society of America national convention and annual meeting will be May 1-4, 2008 in Asheville, North Carolina, with the theme Honor the Greats in Two Thousand Eight . . . the three local greats we have focused on are Chauncey Beadle, Henry Skinner and Augie Kehr . . . you’ve probably heard of them, and you may know a little about them. Here is your chance to learn a lot more about them, to see their plants and gardens, and even to take home some of the very special plants they selected or hybridized. They each chose to live and work in the Asheville/Hendersonville area because of its many natural attributes—gentle climate with four distinct seasons, varied mountain peaks, coves and streams, plant diversity and more—that combine to make it a great place to grow plants and see them in the wild . . . come join us, and experience those same attributes for a few days.

when . . . The convention dates of May 1-4, 2008 are usually peak bloom time for azaleas and rhododendrons in our local gardens, and for Rhododendron vaseyi in the wild. Early May also features some of the best weather in western North Carolina.

who . . . The 2008 convention is open to everyone with an interest in azaleas. If you are not yet a member of the Azalea Society, just add $20 to your registration fee for membership through 2008, including membership in a local chapter of your choice.

why . . . Get immersed in azaleas in one of the most beautiful areas in the country! Learn about some of our azalea pioneers, see their hybrids and selections in some of the many beautiful public and private gardens in the Asheville and Hendersonville areas, see R. vaseyi in the wild, and hear talks about azaleas and their hybridizers. As a bonus, meet your far-away gardening friends again, and get some rare azaleas and companion plants for your garden at bargain prices.

where . . . Asheville, North Carolina, one of the top-ten places to live in the US, is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains with an amazingly diverse 14,000 species of plant and animal life. The diversity of plant species is due to the unique geological processes that created the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is among the reasons our azalea greats were attracted to the area. read more… (a good summary about the Blue Ridge mountains in eastern Tennessee, which share the geology and diversity of western North Carolina)


registration . . .
Register early, especially if you are signing up to see R. vaseyi in the wild, or to tour the Southern Highlands Reserve, where space is limited to the first 28 members. To help encourage you to register early, use the early $15-off registration fee if you mail your check and registration form by March 1, 2008 or register online by then. After that, our regular low fees will apply for registration through April 1, 2008, which is our deadline for scheduling the buses.

Can’t plan ahead? You may also be able to register at the last minute for a $25 surcharge, until we run out of space on the buses.

For convention registration, download the registration form (it’s a 108KB PDF), print it, fill it out, and mail it with your check. If you must pay by credit card for conversion to US dollars, you may also mail us the form or email the information and use PayPal to send your payment to (it’s easy to open a PayPal account if you don’t already have one, and it is completely safe).

For hotel reservations, please deal directly with our convention headquarters hotel, and mention the Azalea Society convention for the special $79 room rate. (If you wait too long to get in on that special rate, there are many other motels nearby, as listed here.)

Our convention hotel is the recently remodeled Holiday Inn Asheville – Biltmore West, 435 Smokey Park Highway, Asheville, North Carolina, 28806, 1-828-665-2161 or 1-800-315-2621. It is just south of I-40 at exit 44, the first exit off I-40 west of I-26. The location, central to our tours and 5 miles west of the center of downtown Asheville with its excellent shopping and dining, along with free guest parking, reasonable cost, and ample space for our meetings made it an easy choice for our convention.

getting here . . .
Drive here via I-40 from the east or west, or I-26 from the north or south to I-40. You can see a closeup map here, and an overview map with more detailed driving directions at the hotel website.

Fly here to the Asheville (AVL) airport (drive 11 miles on I-26W to I -40W), or to the Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) airport (drive 75 miles on I-85N to I-26W to I-40W). Taxi service is available between the Asheville airport and the hotel with 8 hour advance notice from Art’s Shuttle Service, 828-489-8873, $35 for 1-7 passengers.


The main tours on Friday and Saturday visit local gardens, or you can choose to instead see R. vaseyi in the wild on either day. The main tour on Friday will visit gardens in the Asheville area, and on Saturday the main tour will visit gardens in the Hendersonville area.
      Sorry – the Hendersonville tour is sold out as of April 1, 2008!

The R. vaseyi tours on Friday and on Saturday mostly cover the same ground each day. We also offer a post-convention tour to the Southern Highlands Reserve tour with great natural stands of R. vaseyi along with other one-of-a-kind natural and man-made sights. These R. vaseyi tours are each limited to the first 28 guests, they will involve some hiking, and they necessarily take longer bus rides—but will more than make up for those long rides with the wonders to be seen. If you can spend an extra day, you can see all the gardens as well as R. vaseyi in the wild by taking the main tours on Friday and Saturday, and the Southern Highlands Reserve tour on Sunday—if you register early enough to be one of the first 28!

Each tour is described below, some with a brief introduction and a link to a more complete description.

Friday: Asheville Tour: Biltmore Estate Gardens
The Biltmore House, designed by Richard Morris Hunt and built in 1889 for George Washington Vanderbilt, is the largest single family home in America at 175,000 sq ft, and was ranked the 8th most interesting structure in the United States in a recent poll by the American Institute of Architects. It was originally surrounded by 125,000 acres of land, now 8,000 acres. The focus of our visit is the gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park in New York City, and particularly the Azalea Garden with many plants and azaleas originally selected by Chauncey Beadle. read more…

Friday: Asheville Tour: Charles Dexter Owen garden

This fabulous garden belonging to Charles and Cary Owen is located
in Biltmore Forest, adjacent to the Biltmore estate. A confusion of names might seem to occur until you realize that Charles Dexter
Owen is a cousin of the Charles Owen Dexter, hybridizer of the Dexter rhododendrons at Heritage Plantation on Cape Cod. The Owen house, constructed in 1936, sits in the middle of the largest collection of Dexter hybrid rhododendrons in the south, exceeded only by the
original Dexter garden on Cape Cod which provided the plants “by fully loaded box cars”.


Friday: Asheville Tour: North Carolina Arboretum at Asheville
The Arboretum was established in 1986 as an affiliate campus of the University of North Carolina. Located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, the 434-acre Arboretum property includes 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of forested hiking/biking trails. We will have lunch at the Savory Thyme Cafe, and tour the 8 acre National Native Azalea Repository. read more…

Friday: Asheville Tour: Haywood Community College is a two-year college a few miles west of Asheville, offering technical, occupational and liberal arts associate degrees, including course work in horticulture supported by its overall landscape plan and arboretum designed by Doan Ogden. The original inventory of trees on the 80 acre campus, done in the 1960’s, had 880 trees—more than 22 native species—with most averaging 100 years old. Since then 100 new species of trees, shrubs, and ground covers have been added. read more…

Friday: R. vaseyi Tour:
Here is your chance to see R. vaseyi in its native setting. R. vaseyi is found in the wild in only 4 counties in western North Carolina and (probably) one in northern Georgia, generally between 3000 and 5000 feet elevation. We will see R. vaseyi on Pilot Mountain, on Highway 215, and on the Blue Ridge Parkway, We will also visit the National Native Azalea Repository at the North Carolina Arboretum. read more…

      Sorry – the Hendersonville tours are sold out as of April 1, 2008!
Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Bell Garden
The Doley and Melody Bell garden began in the 1970s as a retirement venture for former educators David and Naoma Dean. Credit for the garden design and layout goes to the Deans. Following David’s death, Naoma married Dr. Allen Clague and they continued improving and maintaining the garden until Doley and Melody Bell became stewards of the garden in June of 2000.

This remarkable garden has an estimated 3000 rhododendrons and azaleas including Dexter, Haag, Leach, Kehr, Gilkey, Delp, Van Veen, Richardson, and Lee hybrid rhododendrons, and Glenn Dale, Back Acre, Exbury, and Girard hybrid azaleas. There are deciduous azaleas from North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Special plants include flowering peaches, crab apples, hybrid dogwoods, hybrid laurels, Franklinia, Cunninghamia, Camellias, Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Enkianthus, Pieris japonica, Japanese Maples, and more.


Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Stelloh Garden

house entrance detail Denise and Bob Stelloh moved to Hendersonville 12 years ago, along with 600 plants from their previous garden in the Washington DC area. Their woodland garden covers a little more than two acres, divided into planting beds by a half-mile of winding trails. The hilly site had many native wildflowers, mountain laurel and R. maximum, along with a few native R. calendulaceum, R. arborescens and R. viscosum, under an overstory of mature oaks, tulip poplars, pines, sourwoods and dogwoods. Twelve years later, about half of the site is now interplanted with groundcovers, a variety of evergreen and deciduous azaleas, rhododendrons, and japanese maples and other ornamental trees—and, thanks to some hurricanes, quite a few less overstory trees. The most exciting time was the fall of 2004 when the remnants of hurricane Ivan blew down a 139 year old oak, which pushed over a 100 year old tulip poplar on its way down, creating a sun garden and years worth of firewood in an instant.


Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Collins (Larus) Garden
The 2001 Convention tours included a visit to the garden of Ed and Mary Collins and we will visit them again–this time to a completely different garden! Two years ago Mary & Ed Collins purchased the Charlie and Ethel Larus property, sold their existing house and garden, and made a rapid move to a beautifully established garden located on 7 plus acres with two streams. Charlie had eclectic tastes with a special interest in dwarf plants. As a result, the garden had a large and densely planted collection of dwarf indumented rhododendrons, evergreen azaleas, deciduous azaleas and a large number of perennials, wildflowers. and unusual trees and shrubs. The Collins are in the process of incorporating the thousand plus plants brought from their previous garden into the landscape, by opening up an additional two acres to display their Cowles hybrids and many deciduous azaleas, and revamping the existing dense plantings by selective transplanting to the new area.
Dwarf conifer collection


Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: James and Mary Ann Stewart (Kehr) Garden

Augie, magnolias Four years ago the Stewarts obtained the fabulous garden developed by Dr August Kehr over the course of twenty four years. Not entirely by chance, it is located adjacent to the Collins garden, which gives us two gardens for one stop. The property encompasses some 10 plus acres with 2 streams. The back part of the property is the meadow that Augie used for his later magnolia hybridization work and has what may be the largest collection of magnolias in the US. The upper garden has a very large collection of azalea and rhododendron hybrids, many developed by Augie, along with many other rare and unusual plants. One of his goals was the development of a good yellow evergreen azalea using various propagation methods. Although he never reached this goal, approximately a dozen plants in the garden are the result of this effort. Augie’s last plant registration was ‘Memory of Fred Galle’, a deciduous native azalea developed from seed given to Augie by Fred Galle. This plant will be available in the Plant Sale.


Saturday: Hendersonville Tour: Turlington (Skinner) Garden
Dorothea (Dot) Turlington has owned the Henry Skinner house and garden for a number of years, and Dot has maintained the remaining Skinner garden plants and nursery stock. The garden represents his choices of native azaleas from his famous 25,000 miles of plant-hunting trips across the Southeast in search of distinctive native azaleas. It also contains some of the deciduous azaleas he hybridized after his retirement to Hendersonville.
Skinner #4


Saturday: R. vaseyi Tour: Pilot Mountain/Pisgah Inn
This Saturday tour will be similar to the Friday tour except that more time will be spent on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 215 and the group will not visit the North Carolina Arboretum. read more…

Post Convention Tour Sorry! This tour is sold out as of February 28, 2008.
On Sunday morning, May 4th, we will travel from the hotel to the top of Toxaway Mountain to visit the Southern Highlands Reserve, a privately funded nonprofit organization which manages a 130-acre property at elevations up to 4700 feet. read more…


Your immersion into azaleas continues each evening with talks and slide shows. Click the links for more information on the speakers.


Jeff Jones: New Insights into Chromosomes, Breeding, and The Evolution of Rhododendron spp.
With more than 800 species, the genus Rhododendron is complex and diverse. In many respects our knowledge of the genus is still rudimentary and information on basic genetics is amazingly sparse. It is well known that polyploidy (more than two completed sets of chromosomes)occurs naturally in some rhododendron species, particularly within the Pentanthera and Rhododendron subgenera, with ploidy levels ranging from three to twelve. However, this information is based on very limited sampling and data on specific populations and cultivars is generally lacking. read more…

Dr.Dan Veazey: August Kehr: The Gentleman Behind the Plants

Bill Alexander: Chauncey D. Beadle: Botanist, Nurseryman and Azalea Hunter
Botanist Chauncey D. Beadle came to Biltmore Estate at the beginning of its construction in 1890 to take charge of the new Biltmore Nursery. The Nursery was the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted and was established to produce millions of trees, shrubs and other ornamental plants for reforesting and landscaping the extensive acreage of George Washington Vanderbilt’s estate. The nursery, under Beadle’s guidance, become a commercial enterprise in 1898 and produced one of the largest offerings of ornamental plants in the world until a devastating flood in 1916. read more…

Barbara Bullock: Henry Skinner


J. Jackson: From Seed to Seed – Searching for the Best Production Methods

Joe Klimavicz: Developing New Evergreen Azalea Hybrids
Joe will cover the wide variety of azaleas used in his hybridization program, his idea of a perfect plant, his small garden, hybridization processes, and his new azalea hybrids. He will also talk about the future of azalea hybridization.

Dan Krabill: The Glenn Dale Azaleas – Digital Photos, Growing Experiences, and Recommendations


Joe Coleman: Evergreen Azaleas: The Beginning and the End

  plant sale

Members of the Vaseyi Chapter have been busy propagating many of the convention plants we will have for sale. We are anxious to showcase seedlings and registered plants from Augie Kehr, Chauncey Beadle, and Henry Skinner. We will also feature rare azaleas and rhododendrons from many other plant collectors and hybridizers. Some of the plants that will be offered include ‘Snowbird’ and its polyploid version ‘Fragrant Star’, ‘Memory of Fred Galle’, ‘Dawn at the River’, and selected seedlings from Henry Skinner and Zophar Warner deciduous azaleas.

We will also have wild flowers and an extensive collection of companion plants including Hollies, Conifers, Japanese Maples, Witch Hazels, and Redbuds.


Thursday, May 1, 2008
  11:00 am-6:00 pm Registration
  1:00 pm-4:30 pm Board Meeting meeting room
Lunch on your own
               -6:30 pm Dinner on your own
  4:30 pm-6:00 pm Plant Sale
  6:30 pm Welcome, Opening Remarks
  6:45 pm Jeff Jones New Insights into Chromosomes, Breeding, and The Evolution of Rhododendron spp.
  7:15 pm Dr.Dan Veazey August Kehr: The Gentleman Behind the Plants
  . . . break . . .
  8:10 pm Bill Alexander Chauncey D. Beadle: Botanist, Nurseryman and Azalea Hunter
  8:55 pm Barbara Bullock Henry Skinner
  10:00 pm-12:00 pm Hospitality Room
  10:00 pm-11:00 pm Plant Sale
Friday, May 2, 2008
               -7:45 am Breakfast on your own
  7:45 am Buses load
  8:00 am-5:00 pm Asheville tour Biltmore, Owen, North Carolina Arboretum, Haywood Community College
  8:00 am-5:00 pm R. vaseyi tour Pilot Mountain, Hiway 215, Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah Inn, Devils Courthouse, North Carolina Arboretum
  5:00 pm-6:00 pm Plant Sale
               -6:30 pm Dinner on your own
  7:00 pm Jay Jackson From Seed to Seed – Searching for the Best Production Methods
  7:45 pm Joe Klimavicz Developing New Evergreen Azalea Hybrids
  . . . break . . .
  8:40 pm Dan Krabill The Glenn Dale Azaleas – Digital Photos, Growing Experiences, and Recommendations
  10:00 pm-12:00 pm Hospitality Room
  10:00 pm-11:00 pm Plant Sale
Saturday, May 3, 2008
               -7:45 am Breakfast on your own
  7:45 am Buses load
  8:00 am-5:00 pm Hendersonville tour Bell, Stelloh, Collins, Stewart, Turlington
  8:00 am-5:00 pm R. vaseyi tour Pilot Mountain, Hiway 215, Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah Inn, Devils Courthouse
  5:00 pm-6:00 pm Plant Sale
  6:30 pm Banquet
  7:15 pm Joe Coleman Evergreen Azaleas: The Beginning and the End
  8:15 pm Annual Meeting
  9:00 pm Plant Auction
  10:00 pm-12:00 pm Hospitality Room
  10:00 pm-11:00 pm Plant Sale
Sunday, May 4, 2008
  7:30 am-9:00 am Board Meeting breakfast included
  9:00 am-?? Hybridizing Roundtable discussion
  9:30 am-4:30 pm Southern Highlands Reserve tour
  7:00 am-10:00 am Plant Sale