Rhodies accentuate Florence area

Spring-blooming rhododendrons have become an iconic symbol for the Florence area, even winning awards for shape and color during the Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society’s twice-yearly Rhody Flower Shows.

Local chapter of Rhody Society celebrates 50 years

Sept. 11, 2019 — Florence has been associated with the “rhody” for decades, even taking on the moniker “The City of Rhododendrons.” This year, the Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society is celebrating 50 years as an organization.

The rhododendron, while originally imported from Asia, has taken root and blossomed in the area for more than a century. The name is drawn from the ancient Greek and translates in English to “rose tree.” There are more than 1,000 varieties of rhododendrons and a fair number of those can be seen in and around Florence, many in Gallagher Park.

While the plant blooms in the spring, the flowers are also one of the headliners for this weekend’s Rods ‘N’ Rhodies Car Show.

For 50 years, Members of the Rhody Society have been teaching and sharing information on the many different varieties of rhodies available in this area, which is the mission of the chapter.

Day Farrald is a longtime member of the group and is working with the Rods ‘N’ Rhodies organizers to showcase the plant during the busy weekend. Unfortunately, the beautifully colored blooms of the rhododendron will not be on display this weekend, but information will be shared and unflowered plants will be available for sale.

“The mission of the Rhododendron Society is to disseminate information about the genus Rhododendron, and that includes a little bit of everything,” Farrald said. “Not only is the group there to share information on the culture, which fertilizer to use, the right amount of sun or shade and the amount of water they need, but we also talk about the history of plant.”

The next meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw, 3996 Highway 101 in Florence.

One of the main reasons the Siuslaw Chapter is involved with this week’s event is let the community know about the group and invite interested people to the group’s meetings.

“We have monthly meetings at the Presbyterian Church, and this next meeting is about rhododendron care,” Farrald said. “If someone is new to the area, or has no rhododendron experience, and likes the flowers and wants to know more about them, this is the meeting to come to.”

The beauty of the rhododendron is one reason for its ongoing popularity; another is its efficacy as an element in traditional medicine, primarily in Asia, where the leaves are used as an anti-inflammatory and poultice. The plant also has the distinction of being recognized and categorized by the father of modern taxonomy, Linnaeus, in his seminal work, “Species Plantarum,” published in 1753.

Oregon is one of the nation’s leading growers of rhododendrons for commercial use, providing the hardy plants for landscaping and ornamentation not only in state but also for use in Washington, Idaho and California.

As for the Siuslaw Chapter of the Rhody Society, “We not only have monthly meetings, but we are involved in a number of different things,” Farrald said. “We maintain Gallagher Park — the Florence Garden Club takes care of the front area by the signs and we take care of all the rhodies in the park. We wish that more people would utilize that park because we have some great rhodies there.”

The Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society meets the third Tuesday of every month at the Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw. For more information, call Day Farrald at 541-590-3161.

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