National Arboretum Funding Crisis

Azalea ‘Darkness’ (Glenn Dale)

Image by treegrow via Flickr

There’s trouble brewing at the United States National Arboretum in Washington DC.  The nation’s only federally funded arboretum is facing a funding crisis and plans call for the fall 2011 removal of up to 10,000 undocumented azaleas as well as some perennials and boxwood around the 446-acres of gardens.

According to Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener blog, the arboretum’s interim director Dr. Ramon Jordan spelled out the facts about the loss of private funding for two gardener positions translating to 30% of the actual gardeners who are needed to catalog and move plant collections to save what they can. Outrage over the plans for the removal of azaleas, boxwood and perennials is being heard all over the internet.

As a guest blogger on Washington Gardener blog site, Don Hyatt, noted azalea expert, breeder and grower, expressed a powerful argument against the removal of azaleas . Garden Rant’s Susan Harris addressed the subject, inviting supporters to link to a Azalea Cause facebook site or Save the Azalea site where emails of senators and congressmen are listed. Today, in the Washington Post, a column by Adrian Higgins summed up the fury of azalea lovers.

Each spring, more than 100,000 visitors from the US and elsewhere flock to the hillside of azalea blooms, color grouped for maximum impact and splendor. Lets hope that renewed quest for funding will save the gardens before the time runs out.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

6 thoughts on “National Arboretum Funding Crisis

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. Most of the people who are upset are into ‘sustainable’…and these azaleas don’t appear to fall into that category. They require an enormous amount of work, according to the article. With govt. freezes on civilian paychecks for the next 2 years, the price of eggs & milk going up, and the current economic environment–while unfortunate–this situation hardly compares to anything that is remotely serious. I greatly enjoy the azaleas, but how can anyone who claims to be ‘sustainable’ or advocating for ‘native plants’ disagree when money is scarce?


    • Jan, the more I read, the more I am finding out how much is involved. The issue has definitely gone viral and the jury is still out with me but it would be wonderful if they found another private donor or a solution to their funding crisis in this current economic environment.


  2. BUT, the thing is, these azaleas don’t really need much–if any–attention. I have some non-native azaleas in my own yard and despite ongoing neglect, they just thrive. I don’t provide them with an acidic environment, and they still bloom beautifully in the spring. What do they really need? Of all the non-native plants out there, this does seem to be a low-maintenance plant, if there ever was one.


  3. Pingback: Azaleas Granted a Stay of Execution « GCV Horticulture

  4. Pingback: Azaleas Granted a Stay of Execution | Breaking New Ground – Zone 5

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