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For the Love of Rhododendron

For the Love of Rhododendron

By ARS NextGen
Have you ever loved someone so much that you followed them around and talked endlessly about them to all your friends and family? That’s how much we love Rhododendron, a quirky and amazing genus of flowering plants that has a deep human history and an incredible ecological legacy. Follow along on our adventures as we learn about the remarkable things that folks all around the world have done, For the Love of Rhododendron.

This podcast is a production of The American Rhododendron Society Next Generation Program. Learn more at
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Currently playing episode

Where kindred spirits convene

For the Love of Rhododendron

Where kindred spirits convene

For the Love of Rhododendron

Shake the world gently
In this episode we meet Mike Stewart, President of the Van Veen Heritage Garden in Portland Oregon. We learn how this newly formed non-profit organization is carrying on the extraordinary legacy of the VanVeen family, three generations of horticultural pioneers who dedicated themselves to learning about Rhododendrons, devising new propagation techniques, and generously sharing their plants and their knowledge. In doing so, they turned their little corner of Portland into a veritable sanctuary of Rhododendrons and built a huge community of friends, evoking the wisdom of Mahatma Ghandi, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
January 01, 2022
Finding new mountains
In this episode we meet Steve Hootman, Executive Director and Curator of the Rhododendron Species Foundation and Botanical Garden, located in Federal Way, Washington. We get a glimpse into the history of this stunning wild garden, we learn how observing Rhododendron in nature provides insights into their cultivation, and we discover that consuming plant knowledge and finding new mountains is an actual career path. Much like John Muir described in a letter to his sister Sarah in 1873, “The mountains are calling, and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.”
December 03, 2021
The pitch of their wingbeats
In today’s episode we meet Dr. Robbie Hart, a researcher at the William L. Brown Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden. We learn how hillsides filled with Rhododendron flowers have informed the everyday lives of people on Mt. Yulong in South China, how this traditional ecological knowledge is preserved in the local languages of Yunnan, and how even listening to a tiny bee buzzing around a flower can provide insight on the importance of plants and the environment for the flourishing of humankind. Echoing the words of author Nancy Farmer, “Look around you...Feel the wind, smell the air. Listen to the birds and watch the sky. Tell me what's happening in the wide world.”
November 14, 2021
You can add your own twist
In this episode we meet Rhododendron hybridizer and college professor, Paul Chafe, we learn how a memorable brush with giant Rhododendrons led him to hybridizing, how he's adding his own twist on breeding cold-hardy Rhododendron by chasing a dream of tree-like, big-leaf plants that don't look like they should survive in the frigid cold of continental Canada.  Representing the next generation of Rhododendron breeders, Paul is expanding the palate of cold-hardy forms with the same modernistic approach embodied by author Henry James, who once quipped "A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it."
October 01, 2021
Where kindred spirits convene
In this episode we meet some of the organizers and speakers from the upcoming American Rhododendron Society Fall Convention, they share their fascinating Rhododendron origin stories, the important work they are currently doing in Rhododendron, and give a tantalizing preview of the virtual convention line-up. Though our friends and families may tire of hearing about Rhododendron, as Lucy Maud Montgomery reminds us in Anne of Green Gables: “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” More info and registration for American Rhododendron Society Fall Convention here: 
August 30, 2021
A treasure-trove of experiences
In this episode we learn about Ryan Fuller’s research on Rhododendron evolution in the Hengduan Mountains of China, how this magical place spawned Ryan’s polyploidy problems, how the people in Yunnan and the Rhododendrons themselves welcomed him, and how the rather practical goal of collecting plant samples led him to a goldmine of adventures worthy of the most ambitious bucket-list. Just as told by Paulo Coelho in the “The Alchemist”, when you are about to climb yet another dune, that is the moment when your heart whispers, "Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That's where I am, and that’s where your treasure is.”
August 02, 2021
The genome was the puzzle
In this episode, Ryan and Juliana meet with Dr. Valerie Soza to learn about the Rhododendron williamsianum genome sequencing project, how a visionary researcher led a huge team of scientists on an epic adventure to tackle a 30,000-piece puzzle that took 10 years and a whole lot of persistence to complete. Reflecting on the words of the immortal Smokey Robinson, “Love's a puzzle, love's a puzzle, Confusing as can be, But work it out and you'll discover, The beauty of love's mystery.”
June 25, 2021
There wasn't a map
In this episode, we learn about the podcast production team, how random twists and turns in the road of life led them to discover their love of Rhododendron, and their hopes for how this podcast can inspire and support others embarking on their own journey into the vast and uncharted territory that is genus Rhododendron. For, as DH Lawrence once wrote: “Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration.”
June 01, 2021