“The Loveliest Convention on the Plains“
Auburn, AL • April 2-4, 2024
Courtyard by Marriott
Convention hotel price $109 plus taxes (reservations made at least 30 days prior).
Convention Chair: John Torbert — Salem, AL
Register Online View Attendees
This year’s Convention, hosted by the Alabamense Chapter, will be on Tuesday April 2 through Thursday April 4 in Auburn, Alabama. These dates should be peak bloom time for many deciduous and evergreen azaleas.
We have an action-packed event of field trips, speakers, a photo contest, and a plant sale. Except for an hour-long bus ride to/from Callaway Gardens on Thursday, there will only be a small amount of driving time.
Auburn is a small college community in which many diehard native azalea enthusiasts have existed and been responsible for the establishment of plantings on Auburn University campus and throughout the community. This should be peak bloom time for many azaleas.
Registration Fee of $350 is our estimate for the break-even cost of this event, assuming 70-90 attendees. This is the cost to cover hotel meeting space for registration and plant sale, dinner venues, field trip transportation, entrance fee to Callaway Gardens, field trip snacks, lunches and dinners on Wednesday and Thursday, insurance and miscellaneous incidentals. An additional $25 is required for anyone wanting to attend the pre-conference Tuesday “Azalea 101 Workshop”.
Please Register early. Alabamense is a fledgling ASA Chapter with a tiny treasury. Early registration will help us with down payments for buses and venues. We cannot afford to be wrong on our cost estimates. We anticipate 70-90 people. If more or many fewer than that, we need time to make logistical adjustments. Although there is a $50 late registration fee after February 1st to discourage late registration, it is possible we may not be able to accommodate late registrations.
We will operate out of the Courtyard by Marriott, located at the south edge of town, at exit 51 on I-85. Thirty-five rooms are reserved for $109 plus the ordinary hotel taxes. This rate is good for reservations made at least 31 days before the Convention.
The Courtyard by Marriott is a new hotel. It has the biggest meeting space of any of the mid-priced hotels in town, a spacious lounge, outdoor seating around the pool and firepit, a Bistro that sells Starbucks coffee, food, beer, wine, and mixed drinks until 10 pm. And it can facilitate a plant sale better than other hotel options.
Another 20 rooms are reserved at the Tru by Hilton for $130. This hotel is in the same parking lot as the Courtyard. The Tru has a full breakfast buffet included in its price; the Courtyard does not include breakfast. The Courtyard does have a bistro that sells some breakfast items.
Make reservations before March 1. Call the hotels directly: Remind them, you are with the Azalea Society Convention.
- Mariott Courtyard at: 334-502-0111
- Hilton Tru at: 334-521-0400
Hotel Parking is no problem. Lots of free parking at these two hotels.
Getting to the Hotels is straightforward for anyone driving. They are located within sight of exit 51 on Interstate 85, on the south side of Auburn.
If flying, Auburn is a 90-minute drive from the Atlanta airport and about an hour from Montgomery AL or Columbus GA. Montgomery and Columbus are small airports, easy to move through security and board, but with limited rental car options.
Atlanta airport has more rental car options and Groome Transportation is a good shuttle company that moves from the airport to several stops in Auburn, including our hotels.
You must reserve your ride with Groome in advance. The current rate is $55 if reserved online ($65 by phone). The shuttle runs on 1- hour intervals, but on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays the schedule is a bit more limited. Keep the time zones in mind. Airport pickup time is eastern time. Hotel pickup time is central time.
It is always nice to be able to eat dinner at the hotel, listen to the evening speakers and then go upstairs to your room. That is not possible this year. None of the mid-price hotels have meeting space large enough to accommodate more than about 40 people for dinner.
Dinner on Tuesday, following the Welcome Hospitality Hour, will be on our own. Wednesday night will be 20 minutes from the hotel at Crooked Oaks Farm, and Thursday (Banquet night) will be 2 ½ miles away at Auburn’s Agricultural (indoor) Pavilion.
“Azalea 101” Workshop
This workshop, sponsored by the Alabama Extension Service, The Davis Arboretum, and the Alabamense Chapter of ASA, will be held on Tuesday morning beginning at 9:00 before the official start of the Convention. While ASA members are welcome to attend, it’s primarily designed to be of interest to non-members that want to learn more about azaleas. We anticipate good participation from Master Gardeners and hopefully some of them will join the ASA.
This will be a 5-hr workshop all about azaleas, evergreen and deciduous, identification, site selection, planting, care, and propagation. Participants will leave with a small tray of azalea seed ready to germinate and some cuttings ready to root.
This event will begin at 9 am on Tuesday April 2, take place in the College of Forestry Building on the University campus.
Wednesday, April 3
All activities during the day will be within the Auburn town limits.
Auburn University’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum. This is a 14-acre property with one of the finest collections of deciduous azaleas anywhere. The Arboretum’s Curator (and Alabamense Chapter Past-President) Patrick Thompson will give us a thorough tour, explaining how this nationally accredited collection of azaleas was developed and all about the work being done to protect, promote,
and establish deciduous azaleas in gardens, and in their natural habitat.
We will learn about past and future breeding goals of Auburn Azalea series which should be approaching the peak of their bloom period during the conference.
Other highlights at the Arboretum include an accredited collection of Southeastern native oak species, numerous Alabama habitat gardens recreating coastal dunes, pitcher plant bogs, meadows, rock outcrops, and more.
Botanic Shopping & Lunch
We will all join together for lunch at Botanic, a new upscale retail nursery with nice garden attractions and an opportunity to shop.
Local Garden Tours
Through the decades, the town of Auburn has had some serious azalea enthusiasts that have transformed their yards into spectacular displays. After the Arboretum, we will visit the gardens of Bob Greenleaf and Ken Rogers. Because these gardens are in somewhat secluded neighborhoods, we will split the group in two; half going to one site first and later the other.
After the garden tour, we will return to the hotel to rest and refresh ourselves, before taking the 20-minute ride to Crooked Oaks Farm. This was the private retreat and Japanese maple farm of Auburn’s Coach Pat Dye, who recently passed and donated this property to Auburn’s College of Forestry and Wildlife.
After dinner at Crooked Oaks, we will hear a presentation from Dr. Charles Mitchell. Mitchell gives very interesting talks about the history of the rural south with particular emphasis on the evolution of land management practices from the time of the indigenous peoples and the devastating erosion that has occurred. This will be an especially relevant topic given where the tour will be going on Thursday.
Thursday April 4
We will spend all day Thursday at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia—the southernmost foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Callaway Gardens is a one-hour ride from the hotel. This is an absolute must-see destination for anyone interested in native and evergreen azaleas.
Almost 100 years ago, Cason and Ida Callaway (after making a fortune in the textile industry) bought 2,500 acres on which they found a population of the rare plumleaf azalea. Already having an interest in horticulture and restoration of eroded agricultural, this discovery of plumleaf azalea ignited their determination to create a preserve dedicated to the preservation and education about nature.
Callaway Gardens is now an amazing array of wildflowers, and both evergreen and deciduous azaleas, tied together with trails, ponds, lakes, and famous attractions include the infamous Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and the Victory Garden.
Callaway Gardens has a tram system that will move us through the park and we will have their head horticulturist and other experts to explain the significance of some of our stops.
After we leave Callaway Gardens, we hope to stop at Lazy K Nursery (started by Ernest Koone), which adjoins Callaway property. For anyone interested in the large collection of deciduous azaleas that should be for sale.
Dinner at Agricultural Heritage Park Pavilion, is three miles from the hotel. This will be the site for the annual Banquet and ceremonies.
During this three-day event we will hear from:
- A welcoming committee at the Tuesday hospitality hour that should include the mayor of Auburn and the award-winning Aubie, Auburn University mascot.
- Retired Extension Specialist Dr. Charles Mitchell. Charles is a popular speaker for his very interesting presentations about the history of land-use in rural Alabama.
- Dr. Samantha Pryor will tell us about her dissertation research on pollinators and deciduous azaleas.
- Mike Akins will tell us how to get the most out of our phone cameras to photograph azaleas and landscapes.
- Joe Klimavicz will talk about his 40 years of azalea breeding (and some of his varieties will be for sale).
- Bob Patterson will talk to us about his Lazy-K Nursery.
Azaleas and native companion plants will be available for sale beginning Tuesday afternoon and throughout the meeting.
If you didn’t watch it yet, here is a link to a video preview of the 2024 Convention:
preview of sights for 2024 ASA Convention