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For those who are interested, here is some follow-up on the previously posted controversy regarding deaccessioning of boxwoods and azaleas at the National Arboretum. Michael W. Giese email@example.com Subject: Azalea Controversy at U.S. National Arboretum Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2010 08:19:26 -0500 To the District I Garden Clubs: Many in the gardening world are agitated about plans at the US National Arboretum to de-access (i.e. remove) the azaleas from the hillside of Mount Hamilton. It's unclear whether this is a ploy for the arboretum to ramp up more public support or more budget dollars (the old close the Washington Monument budget maneuver) or whether it's a reasonable move by an arboretum whose mission is to study and preserve as opposed to being a public park. If the Tea Party congress follows through on their threats to decimate the federal budget, I suspect that these azaleas will become the least of our worries. The controversy is led by Washington Gardener magazine and this blogpost: http://washingtongardener.blogspot.com/2010/11/save-azaleas-at-us-national-arboretum.html Ramon Jordan, the arboretum acting director has responded to the National Capital Area Garden Clubs and his response is reprinted below. David Healy District I Director ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ November 15, 2010 Dear Mary Ellen Alden; President, National Capital Area Garden Clubs, Inc. You may have heard that the National Arboretum’s Gardens Unit will need to cut two gardener positions in 2012 due to the loss of long-standing support from a private donor. The lack of sufficient personnel to maintain all of the gardens and collections at the arboretum’s D.C. campus has forced us to evaluate the best use of the unit’s financial resources. We have determined that we have little choice but to de-accession collections. In the short-term, we will continue to examine other possible funding mechanisms. Gardens Unit staff conducted a careful analysis of the collections and gardens to determine which should be proposed for de-accessioning. The analysis included the scientific value (germplasm) of each collection; its educational and interpretive value; its aesthetic value and appeal to visitors; and the current level of stakeholder involvement/support for the collection. The collections identified for de-accessioning would be removed—with important germplasm preserved through cuttings or transplanting, and some transplanted elsewhere on the arboretum grounds—and the space they occupied planted as low-maintenance woodland or meadow. Making the decision to remove any garden or collection is a painful one and not what any director or staff does without regret. It is the only way, however, that available resources can be matched with the work involved in maintaining garden spaces at an acceptable standard. For the first phase of withdrawing from the care of collections, we are proposing that the National Boxwood Collection and its associated Perennial Collections be de-accessioned. Also, while it has long been one of the most popular seasonal attractions at the National Arboretum, the extensive Glenn Dale Hillside of the Azalea Collections is for the most part undocumented plant material for which we cannot justify long-term maintenance. The work to do this must be undertaken and started now so that it can be completed before the loss of the two staff positions in 2012. The process will consist of herbarium voucher documentation of identified plants in the collection, propagation of plants and shipment to other gardens, nurseries, and collections, and subsequent removal of the plants. Selected plants will be moved or propagated for new plantings in other areas at the arboretum. As a final step, native trees or meadow plants will be planted to restore the areas. Long-term plans already exist to remove nearly all of the azaleas of unknown pedigree on the Glenn Dale Hillside (about 20-25% of the total azalea collection) so that they may be replaced with known Glenn Dale azalea introductions massed in large groups for visual impact, and to secure the germplasm holding with multiple plants. The plan now will shift to fast-track removal of azaleas of unknown pedigree so the area is less of a maintenance burden. Most removals are expected to take place in the summer of 2011. 2 The first steps in de-accessioning the National Boxwood Collection are the development of a complete and accurate inventory, communicating the availability of cuttings or rooted cuttings of the plants on the inventory, propagation of plants, and distribution of the resulting plants. Selected plants from the National Boxwood Collection and Perennials Collection will be moved or propagated to form the basis for new plantings elsewhere at the arboretum; for example, near the walled Morrison Garden in the Azalea Collections. This will create a smaller collection footprint that the Gardens Unit will be able to maintain with reduced resources. Removal of plants would not take place until autumn or winter of 2011-2012. I know that you join me in wishing there were sufficient resources to retain these collections. I hope that you will understand that we cannot simply wait nor abandon collections when there is a reduction in staff. Because all signals currently point to a lack of financial resources sufficient to maintain existing collections by 2012, it would be irresponsible to allow the opportunity to distribute germplasm to pass by while we still have the staff to do the distribution or transplanting. While some might argue for the simple abandonment of garden spaces when staff positions are lost, this is not a responsible approach. Abandonment is environmentally harmful because of the potential for invasive species to become entrenched. It is nearly impossible to recover such collections after just a few years of abandonment without considerable expense. Permanent sustained funding to support the minimum number of staff needed to develop and maintain our collections, but especially the boxwood and perennial collections and the azalea hillside, is the only viable way they can be saved. Should such funding become available, the replacement of unpedigreed plants with Glenn Dale cultivars on the Glenn Dale Hillside could be accomplished gradually, in a way that maintains the spring show while newly planted azaleas become established, and the de-accession of the National Boxwood Collection and Perennial Collections will not be necessary. Managing resources through difficult economic times is challenging, but it can also offer opportunities. We will be carefully examining the resources we have to better engage the public and build strong support for the future. Visitation is trending upward, and the arboretum is still fortunate to have great potential in terms of location, land resource, and positive public recognition. Hopefully these assets will translate into a sound financial future if we can be prudent and deliberate with our resources in this time of transition. I would be happy to speak with you to discuss ways in which you could help support the gardens and collections of the National Arboretum. You have been valuable partners in the past, and we look forward to strengthening this important relationship in the future. Sincerely, Ramon Jordan Interim Director, U.S. National Arboretum ____ You read it on H-DC! 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