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Next Generation Program Podcasts

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For the Love of Rhododendron

Podcasts sharing personal stories about lives enriched through growing, exploring and researching Rhododendron.

Episode List:

Episode 1 - 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 D.H. 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."

Episode 2 - 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."

Episode 3 - 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 Rhododendron's 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.

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."

Episode 4 - 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 program.

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."

Episode 5 - 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 cultivars 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."

Episode 6 - 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 influenced 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."

Episode 7 - 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 gaining plant knowledge and finding new mountains is an actual career path.

As John Muir described in a letter to his sister in 1873, "The mountains are calling, and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly."

Episode 8 - 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 non-profit organization is carrying on the extraordinary legacy of the Van Veen family, three generations of horticultural pioneers who dedicated themselves to Rhododendrons, devising new propagation techniques, and generously sharing their plants and their knowledge.

In doing so, they turned their nursery into a veritable sanctuary of Rhododendrons and built a huge community of friends, evoking the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi, "In a gentle way, you can shake the world."


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