Simmer down about the Arboretum azaleas, already

Photo courtesy of
‘What’s around the bend?’
courtesy of ‘katieharbath’

Our friends at DCist join in the handwringing today that I thought was confined to the hysterical tones of neighborhood listserves- Yes, everyone. The National Arboretum is planning to take out several (up to 10,000) mature azalea shrubs due to the loss of some grant money used to maintain them. Oh, the humanity!

I like azaleas too, but what everyone seems to be missing is that 10,000 plants is still less than 20% of the entire azalea collection at the Arboretum. That means that even after they’re removed, there will still be over 40,000 azaleas for us to ooh and ahh over each spring. Really.

Meanwhile, the azaleas being removed are ones for which there are no records that would aid the facility’s plant breeders, which, you may recall, is the purpose of the Arboretum: it holds the plants the Agricultural Research Service is using to develop new hybrids.

So the plan is to remove the ones without scientific value so they can concentrate their limited resources on maintaining the (just as beautiful! just as free to gawk at!) plants that actually aid in furthering their mission. Most of the plants removed will be concentrated one location that will no doubt shortly be covered in plants that actually further the facility’s botanical research. You won’t even know they’re gone.

If you’re that concerned about saving them, make a donation to the Arboretum so their limited resources will be less limited.

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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One thought on “Simmer down about the Arboretum azaleas, already

  1. Bob Stelloh of the American Azalea Society wrote an excellent article about this topic:

    Characterizing it as a financial problem is completely misleading, as Aaron Cook and Don Hyatt have pointed out. The loss of the $100,000 grant money only removes two gardeners from the Asian Valley, and has nothing to do with other areas of the arboretum unless they plan to replace them with gardeners from other areas.

    More importantly, renovating and maintaining the azalea hillside on Mt Hamilton for the past 15 years or so has cost the arboretum nothing, since the work was and is being done by Barbara Bullock’s team of loyal volunteers.

    On the other hand, it will cost money to remove the azaleas from the hillside, and it will also create an ongoing maintenance expense, because the volunteers are not going to happily destroy the azaleas they have worked so hard and long to maintain, nor are they apt to maintain the hillside after those azaleas are destroyed.

    Bob Stelloh Hendersonville NC USDA Zone 7