There are still many vireyas in the wild waiting to be found and dried specimens brought to Edinburgh for documentation.  Others have been discovered in past years but live specimens are not yet in cultivation.

For those of you with an inquiring mind, we have prepared a list of people, past and present, which have played major roles in the discovery and distribution of this major section, one-third of the Genus Rhododendron.  Without their inspiration and generosity, we could not have assembled here at the nursery, such an extensive collection of vireya species rhododendrons.  We hope that Bob Bovee, who died in 1970, and his wife, Gertrude, would approve of the current inhabitants of their glass greenhouse.

Dr. Herman Sleumer started his revision of ‘Rhododendron for ‘Flora Malesiana’ in 1953, and it was completed in 1966.  Both E. White Smith and Lucie Sorensen heard him speak when he was in the Pacific NW years ago, and they each have a copy of his book.

Dr. Sleumer worked mostly from dried herbarium specimens, with some field specimens later.  His work undoubtedly lit the flame that is still burning brightly today.

Dr. George Argent: Author of the book, ‘Rhododendrons of the Subgenus Vireya’.

For more than 25 years, Dr. George Argent, of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, has traveled to study and collect vireya rhododendrons.  His fieldwork has enriched both the herbarium collections and the living collections in Edinburgh.  He is also the author, with three other persons, Lamb, Phillipps, and Collenette. of ‘Rhododendrons of Sabah’ (Sabah Parks Publication No. 8).  His new book will be coming out in May 2015.

Few of us will be fortunate enough to see vireya rhododendrons in the wild.  For most of us, this inspiring and accessible book will have to suffice.

 There are many other names from the early years of discovery including: Paul Kores, Pratt, Rev. Norman Cruttwell, Michael Black, Paddy Woods, Bill Burtt, Lou Searle and more.


Disclaimer:  If we have omitted any names from the following lists, or made factual errors, please accept our apology, and let us know our omission or mistake.




From the USA:

Frank Doleshy, from Washington State, was possibly one of the most important of the early contributors to our collection.  E. White Smith believes that Frank received seed and cuttings directly from Dr. Sleumer.  Frank gave E. White Smith a rooted cutting of “R. konori (or white) NGP 2080’ Dept of Forest 3/7/65” which appears to check out as R. pachystigma, a species presumed not in cultivation at this time.  (We hope to be able to list a limited supply in late 2015, with pictures).  After Frank died, his collection was divided between the Rhododendron Species Foundation and The Bovees Nursery.


E. White Smith, from Tacoma, Washington, among the first in the United States to be infected with vireya fever which led to multiple trips to Australia and New Zealand, and exchanges with other enthusiasts.  In1974, in Australia, he met Don Stanton, who was very generous with his collection.  In 1984, Pratt and Kores sent a big box of cuttings to the Rhododendron Species Foundation from Papua New Guinea, which E. White and Fran Rutherford divided up.  By 1993 E. White was successfully growing 37 species.  E. White Smith was also the Editor of the Vireya Vine Newsletter (for 30 years) along with Fran Rutherford, from Port Orchard, Washington.


Fran Rutherford traveled to Papua New Guinea in 1986 with a group of people from New Zealand and brought back several excellent vireya species, some of which we list on our website.  Fran Rutherford also gave E. White Smith some small plants of R. macgregoriae x R. bagobonum, grown from seed from John Rouse.  Later, E. White Smith named one of the plants ‘Lucie Sorensen’.


Fran Rutherford established a special fund at the Rhododendron Species Foundation, which later played a major role in the construction of the new Conservatory at the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden.  Fran passed away before its completion, but he would have been most pleased with this beautiful new home for the vireyas, which gave him so much pleasure.


Dick Chaikin, Cape Cod, Massachusetts (now living in Florida) also caught the fever.  He developed a mail order nursery, Cape Cod Vireyas.  Our wonderful plant called ‘Cape Cod Cranberry’ came from him, as did ‘Cape Cod Sunshine’ and ‘Cape Cod Lobster’.


Mitch Mitchell, Hawaii, became interested in Vireyas around 1985 after E. White Smith sent him a box of cuttings.  Before meeting with Dick Chaikin and E. White Smith in England, Mitch went to Borneo and climbed Mt. Kinabalu.  He also helped start the Hawaii Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society in 1997.


Other Americans include:


Bob Badger: Seattle, Washington.  By 1982 he was growing 26 hybrids and species.


Hugh Caldwell: Northern Florida


Maurice Sumner: south of San Francisco, a very early enthusiast.


Dave Goheen: Vancouver, Washington.  Went to Mt. Kinabalu, in Borneo, with Frank Mossman and brought back seed, which they shared with interested people.


Frank Mossman: Vancouver, Washington.  Along with Dave Goheen, brought back seed, cuttings, and photographs of their adventures on Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo.


Dick Cavender: Portland, Oregon.  An early vireya enthusiast  with a true “collector” spirit; who generously shared his plants with others and was a friend of Tom Tatum, another early collector.  Dick raised a R. stenophyllum hybrid, which he named ‘Doris Mossman’.  We hope to have plants of his R. intranervatum to sell in the future


Arne Jensen, from near Yachats, Oregon, had a large collection, mostly hybrids and some species.


Bill Moynier: Los Angeles.  Established one of the first mail-order vireya nurseries.  Bill was very generous with his collection, sending us plants, and giving us cuttings when we visited.


Bill Moyles: Oakland, California.  For many years Bill was “Mr. Seed Exchange” for the American Rhododendron Society.  Bill also established a unique vireya garden outside at Lakeside Park in Oakland, California.  The garden was inside a large steel lath house so it could be locked up at night. 


Peter Schick: Fort Bragg, California, and one of the early growers of vireyas in the U.S.  We call him the ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of vireyas, and welcomed his visits both for the lively conversation and his gifts of rooted vireya cuttings. Lucie Sorensen was fortunate to be able to visit Peter and see the beautiful vireya garden he created at his home.


Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco, California, built up a vireya collection, which is still in place today.  They also gave The Bovees Nursery a plant of R. kinabaluense.


Peter Sullivan, San Francisco, California, developed and maintained the vireya collection at Strybing Arboretum from 1965 on.  He also planted a group of his hybrids at his church in San Francisco, which are still being maintained.  Bill Moynier helped Pete choose and name some of his special hybrids, two of which are ‘Saint Cecilia’ and ‘Aleksandr Isayevich’.


Bob Ticknor, Oregon, was the director of the USDA Experimental Station near Portland.  When he had to change the focus of the program, he gave us plants of R. aurigeranum, R. laetum and R. zoelleri from the USDA collecting trip to China.


June Sinclair, Hood Canal, Washington, is an experienced trekker from multiple China trips.  She gave us seedlings of R. lochiae (now R. viriosum), collected in the wild in Australia and sent to her.


Clarice Clark, Seattle, Washington, collected on the island of Sulawesi.  At one time Clarice was also the propagator at the Rhododendron Species Foundation.


Steve Hootman is the intrepid Director and Curator of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington.  He has brought back vireya seed from trips to Papua New Guinea, China and Vietnam.  Some of our Agapetes and Vacciniums have come from him.


Lucie Sorensen, owner of The Bovees Nursery, a retail and mail order nursery, was first introduced to vireyas in the early 1980’s by Carl Deul, an early California vireya enthusiast, and then by Peter Schick.  Bill Moynier later sent plants and cuttings of his named hybrids.  E. White Smith contributed rare species.  The Bovees Nursery along with the Rhododendron Species Foundation was able to distribute locally and by mail order, worldwide, making vireyas available to a wider range of people.


Hank Helm, Seattle, Washington, collected on Sulawesi with John Farbarik.  They generously shared the cuttings they brought back with the Rhododendron Species Foundation and our nursery.


John Farbarik, Silverton, Washington, first went to Sulawesi in 1996 with Keith Adams and again with Hank Helm, and shared cuttings with the Rhododendron Species Foundation and Bovees.  This was the first trip, by collectors, made to Sulawesi.


Stan Eversole, Palo Alto, California, gave us R. aequabile, grown from seed.  Stan had been growing vireyas from the early days, probably material from Maurice Sumner.


Jim Gerdemann: Yachats, on the Oregon Coast where he grew most of his vireyas outside.  His passion was to hybridize for some hardiness, using R. saxifragoides, R. retusum and others.  He succeeded with his Tropic Alpine group of hybrids.


From New Zealand:

Keith Adams made multiple collecting trips to Papua New Guinea and Borneo, and was even accepted as a tribal member in one tribe and given the name Kadam.  One year we picked him up in Connecticut and drove him back across the United States, to his great enjoyment!  He collected on Sulawesi with John Farbarik in 1996, the first time material had been collected and introduced from that island.  Keith was involved with Pukeiti and was their newsletter editor for many years.


Mark Jury grew vireyas at his nursery for many years although he had to contend with frost.  His father, Felix Jury, collected vireyas in Papua New Guinea in the late fifties.  We list on our website two of the forms of R. macgregoriae that Felix Jury brought back.


John Kenyon had a great collection of vireyas in his nursery on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.  He also went on collecting trips to New Guinea, once with David Binney.  John Kenyon gave us cuttings of both hybrids and species.  He traveled to the US once, visited us, and we reciprocated with cuttings.  John also co-authored an excellent  book, ‘Vireyas, a Practical Gardening Guide’, Timber Press, out-of-print now but probably available on the Internet.


David Binney collected in Papua New Guinea.  When we visited, he showed us his great collection housed in a new greenhouse.  He generously gave us cuttings, including a yellow form of R. javanicum and R. longiflorum.


Richard Currie contributed greatly to the expanding vireya world with his collection of species and by the many beautiful hybrids he created.  Like all the vireya people we met, he shared his plant material.


Graham Smith made collecting trips to Papua New Guinea, one time with Fran Rutherford.  He was a major force in working to establish the large vireya garden and building at Pukeiti.  The vireya structure was built around 1975 with the help of the Stanley Smith Rhododendron Trust.


Oz Blumhardt: a nurseryman on the northern tip of the North Island of New Zealand, with many unusual plants, went to Mt. Kinabalu, in Borneo, in 1979, and returned with twelve species.  Oz gave us cuttings of his saxifragoides hybrids.


Jan and Brian Oldham: Their beautifully designed garden in Auckland, featured vireya hybrids.  Brian made crosses and Jan grew them on.  Brian is gone now but Jan is still working with her plants.  We will be listing some of the hybrids they generously shared with us.


Michael Cullinane had a vireya nursery on the North Island and made some interesting crosses.


From England:

George Argent, his years of scientific study, exploration, and collecting of vireyas have contributed to both our understanding and enjoyment of these beautiful plants.  He is also one of the authors of the ‘Rhododendrons of Sabah’.  He was able to visit our nursery several times, checked the identities of our species, and gave a program to a group of vireya people in our sales area.


Chris Callard has operated  since 1998.  This web site now attracts more than 25,000 visits a year from more than 30 different countries.  Chris went often to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to take photos of vireya species.  He has allowed us to use his photos for our web site.


Allen Clark gave collected wild seed of R. rushforthii and R. emarginatum to E. White Smith.


John Bodeham escorted  E. White Smith, Dick Chaikin and Mitch Mitchell on a month-long tour of England, looking for vireya growers, ending up at an American Rhododendron Society Convention in Oban, Scotland.


Peter and Ken Cox collected extensively in China and India, bringing back hardy rhododendrons and also some vireyas from their trips.


Christopher Fairweather for many years had the national collection of vireya hybrids.  Production of new hybrids has shifted to Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.


Mr. R. Veitch and Sons Nursery, of Chelsea, England. “Perhaps the greatest Nurserymen of all times”.  They sent collectors around the world to find new plants.  In the ensuing years, over five hundred different vireya hybrids were produced from a total of seven newly discovered vireya species.



From Australia:

Don Stanton, very active in the Australian Rhododendron Society, in the early years  of vireya collecting.


Lyn Craven was a Research botanist at the Australian National Herbarium, among other interests.  His several collecting trips for the Australian Rhododendron Society in 1964 and 1966 resulted in the discovery of more than seven new species over the years, more in later years.  He remained at the Australian National Herbarium as an Honorary Research Fellow from 2009 until his death in 2014.


Dr. R. M. ‘Bob’ Withers, very active in the early years, his name is listed on the registration forms for ‘Great Scent-sation’, ‘Hari’s Choice’, ‘Fire Plum’, ‘Carillon Bells’, and others.


Dr. John Rouse, a professional physicist, built up a fine collection of species and hybrids; in Melbourne; excellent at seed raising and scientific research, a nurseryman.  The elegant R. rousei was named in his honor.


Brian Clancy, besides hybridizing, Brian wrote articles to popularize vireyas and explain how to grow them.


Jack Wilson, contributed greatly to the knowledge of vireyas in Australia.


Graham and Wendy Snell, switched from camellias to become outstanding breeders of modern vireya hybrids.


Jack O’Shaunessy, was very active in the Australian Seed Exchange.


Simon and Marcia Begg.  He is the current President of the Australian Rhododendron Society, and both are ardent vireya people in spite of the huge challenges of coping with drought and fire.


Neil Puddy, has a rhododendron nursery in north east Australia.  He became enamored with vireyas and gave up his teaching job to grow and sell vireyas, recently to places like Singapore.


Olinda Rhododendron Gardens.  In addition to hardy rhododendrons, the dedicated members at Olinda maintain a fine vireya collection.


J. Clyde Smith, active in the Australian Rhododendron Society as Editor, author of the book ‘Vireya Rhododendrons’, 1989, published by the Society.


From Germany:


Energy and inspiration has been evident in the work of Hartwig Schepker, Michael Werbeck and Martin Monthofer. Hansjörg and Margot Brentel have explored in very remote parts of SE Asia and introduced many species into cultivation for the first time.


Collectors from France, F. Danet, and Spain have undertaken other explorations, but information is not available to us at this time.