VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Rhododendron Revival Research October 2022

October 2, 2022 Update

My name is Kurstin Rispin and I am currently a Vancouver Island University (VIU) student in the Horticulture Technician Foundation Program. I completed my summer practicum at Milner Gardens & Woodland (Milner Gardens) and continue to work there on weekends this semester. I am a research assistant contributing to the Rhododendron Revival Research (RRR) in partnership with VIU Horticulture, Milner Gardens, and the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society (NRS).

The purpose of this article is to provide a regular update on the progress of the RRR. My role in the research includes monitoring and managing the environmental conditions where the rhododendron cuttings are propagated and tracking cutting progress through daily record-keeping. A highlight of the research will be attending and presenting our findings at the monthly NRS meetings and sending out monthly updates in the newsletter about our progress in the project over the coming months.

My first update begins on October 20, 2022, the same day the Rhododendron cuttings were collected at Milner Gardens & Woodland. VIU Horticulture students and faculty along with Milner Gardens staff and volunteers began our day with a wonderful talk and tour of the Greig Rhododendron Species Garden (GRSG) hosted by Chris Southwick and John Deniseger. Chris and John shared their wealth of knowledge including the importance of rhododendron conservation and the diversity of the plants as a species. John and Chris provided our class with a foundational understanding of the importance of these plants.  Another takeaway from the cutting collection day is the importance of botanical gardens such as Milner Gardens with garden stewards like Geoff Ball - Executive Director, Denise Winter - Horticulture Coordinator, and Kristi Bellis - Plant Records & Design.  The teaching and learning purpose of the GRSG was highlighted as it showcased species rhododendrons at local and global scales.  This shared learning experience helped shape students’ perception of rhododendrons and their cultural importance. 

Rhododendron Revival Research Update Oct2022

VIU Horticulture students and faculty, Milner Gardens volunteers
with Chris Southwick and John Deniseger from Nanaimo Rhododendron Society.

For the research, Jess Lee, research partner and student, Richard Bernier, our guest Master Gardener, and Milner Gardens volunteer, and I took hardwood cuttings from three hybrids chosen by Denise. The hybrids selected were R. ‘Dr. Stocker’, R. ‘Blue Peter’, and R. ‘Beauty of Littleworth’. Denise selected these particular rhododendrons based on the availability of plant material, commercial viability, and public interest.

VIU Horticulture Rhodo Revival Research Update Oct 2022

VIU Horticulture Students (left) Jess Lee and Kurstin Rispin with
Milner Gardens volunteer Richard Bernier, collecting rhododendron cuttings.

Later that evening, along with the help of Christine Quist, VIU Horticulture Acting Chair and Research Supervisor, and Jess, we prepared 96 rhododendron cuttings and “stuck” them in 2.25” pots. These rhododendron cuttings are now cozily housed in the misting tent at VIU's G.R. Paine Horticultural Training Centre in Nanaimo, where I will monitor them.

Updates and more information will be provided at the next NRS meeting on Tuesday, November 10.

For more information, go to:

   Greig Rhododendron Species Garden (GRSG) at Milner Gardens & Woodland

   VIU Horticulture Technican Foundation Certificate Program

   Nanaimo Rhododendron Society (NRS)

   Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society (MARS)

   Cowichan Valley Rhododendron Society

   Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association (VIMGA)