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HISTORY OF THE BLUE RIDGE AREA DAYLILY SOCIETY
Author: Julie Covington

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1995- January 2004

In the summer of 1995, Dr. and Mrs. Jack Wente from Bedford, VA, attended the Region 3 AHS Meeting in Gaithersburg, Md. After the meeting, Dr. Wente spoke with the then Region 3 RVP, Nicole Jordan, to express his great interest in joining a local daylily club. At that time, the nearest daylily club was in Richmond, VA, a three hour drive . Nicole, with her usual enthusiasm, said, ” Why don’t you start a club in your area? I’ll help you.” Dr. Wente liked the idea and the seed was sown. True to her word, Nicole contacted all members of the AHS from Southwest Virginia and invited them to an organizational meeting.
This organizational meeting for the purpose of starting a daylily club in the Southwest Virginia area was held on November 11, 1995, at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Wente in Bedford, VA. Those present at this first meeting and charter club members included : Jack and Jackie Wente, Gary and Carol Osborne, Barbara Peters, Mert Myers, Steve and Mary Nuss, Martha Shepherd, Joan Cabaniss, Arthur and Margaret Walrath, Libby Cross, Betsy Balsdon, and Nell Lancaster. Nicole Jordan, Region 3 RVP was also present and facilitated the meeting. The fifteen charter members introduced themselves and gave information about their experience with daylilies and home locations. It was decided that the club should be named the “Blue Ridge Area Daylily Society” ( with the acronym BRADS) as members represented a wide geographic range in Southwest Virginia, from towns of Lexington, Bedford, Huddleston, Roanoke, Hardy, Blacksburg and surrounding areas. Acting officers were named, dues were patterned after those in the Richmond club, and the next meeting date was set. The name ” The Blue Daylily” was suggested as a name for the club newsletter by Nicole, and Betsy Balsdon became the first newsletter editor.
This group met again in January of 1996 at Va. Western Community College, and officers were elected for the fledgling club. Dr. Jack Wente was elected the first President of the group, Steve Nuss was named Vice-President and Program Chair; Nell Lancaster was elected Secretary, and Carol Osborne was appointed Treasurer . Kyle and Nancy Jones, Doris Bowman, and Angela (Webb) Ridder attended this second meeting and became members at that time. By-laws were presented to the group and voted upon, making BRADS an official AHS Region 3 Daylily club. During Dr. Wente’s tenure as President, a Plants for Members Program was started, with Nancy Jones being the first Chairman of this program. Angela Ridder organized and ran the very first club auction during 1997, donating plants to help get things started. During the first two years, club meetings were held at various locations, often at club members homes.
In January 1998, Phyllis Dierschow became the second President of BRADS, and during her tenure the club became affiliated with the Roanoke Council of Garden Clubs and began holding meetings at Fairacres Garden Center in Roanoke. During Phyllis’s tenure, club member Peggy ( Mrs. Don) Johnson first suggested the idea of BRADS planting daylilies at the National D Day Memorial, and Dr. Wente agreed to contact the persons in charge. The first club daylily show was held on July 18, 1998 at Fairacres, and Peggy T. Johnson hosted the annual summer picnic and auction that year. That summer members enjoyed two weeks of garden tours, the first at Smith Mountain lake where everyone was awed by the beautiful gardens of Don Johnson, Elnora Stubbs, and Joan Cabaniss. During the second week of land tours, members visited more lovely gardens and were treated to a progressive luncheon at the gardens of Doris Bowman, Jim Smith and John Euchler, and David Cooke.
Kyle Jones took over as President in January of 1999, and the club continued to grow and thrive. Under Kyle’s leadership, the club applied for and was awarded “non-profit” status. In January of 1999, we were honored to have our Region 3 Vice President, Kevin Walek, visit and present a program on daylilies and hosta. He was accompanied by former Region 3 RVP Pat Bennett. During that year, we had a special spring meeting at the home of Don and Peggy Johnson, where Don presented a program entitled ” Water Gardens and Landscaping with Daylilies.” We were very sorry to lose our newsletter editor, Betsy Balsdon, who planned to move to Florida in the spring of 1999. During 2000, club member Brad Hughes presented an outstanding program on water features in gardens, and we enjoyed a trip to the beautiful mountain cabin of Willard and Jeanette Hamill. Successful garden tours were planned during 1999 and 2000 under the leadership of Elnora Stubbs. Some of the gardens visited during 1999 and 2000 were those of Gary and Carol Osborne, Peggy T. Johnson, Barbara Sanderson, Dr. Jack Wente and Julie Covington. As the club grew, the Plants for Members program grew also and plants were distributed to over twenty members. BRADS members undertook their first “bus trip” during this time, to visit the famous Iron Gate Gardens in North Carolina.
2001 began with new President Elnora Stubbs calling the meeting to order on January 13, 2001. Little did she know then that she would be serving as President for an unprecedented three years !! During March of 2001, club members participated in a Community Service Project and planted daylilies at a special bed in front of the Ronald McDonald House in Roanoke. The club continued to support the Roanoke Council of Garden Clubs by participating in the annual Holiday House each fall. We also donated poinsettias to the Veteran’s Administration hospital each Christmas as part of the Roanoke Council community service project. We had summer daylily shows at Tanglewood Mall, ably chaired by Jim Smith, and public daylily auctions at Fairacres each spring, with our “auctioneer extraordinaire,” John Euchler. Much of our club’s budget success in these auctions can be attributed to our talented auctioneer, John, who could sell igloos to Eskimos. Each of these events brought the club new members and publicized our favorite flower. Summer picnics and “Plants for Members” auctions became favorite club traditions with great member attendance each year.
Many special programs were held during Elnora’s tenure. By January of 2002, the club was ready to move to the “big time” with a visit and program from top daylily hybridizer Matthew Kaskel from Homestead, Florida and then in January 2003, Margo Reed, the “spider lady” presented another outstanding program with the largest club attendance ever ! In October of 2003, a special program was presented by our new Regional Vice President, Len Lehman, who spoke to us about hosting a Regional meeting We also enjoyed our second bus trip to Iron Gate Gardens in the summer of 2002, made even more memorable because the bus air conditioner broke on a 95 degree day !! BRADS members continued to expand their horizons, with a number of attendees at Regional meetings in Richmond in 2001 and Baltimore in 2002. Club membership continued to grow, and the Plants for Members program reached new levels of excellence under the direction of Chairman Carolyn Alley, assisted by Jim Smith and Nancy Jones.
We were all deeply saddened in January 2002 to lose one of our founders and dear daylily friends, Dr. Jack Wente. As a special memorial to Dr. Wente, the club decided to approach Region 3 with the idea of establishing an award in his honor. Finally in the summer of 2003 at the Pittsburgh regional, we know Dr. Wente would have been pleased to see John Euchler present the first ever Dr. John Wente Region 3 Hybridizer’s Award sponsored by the Blue Ridge Area Daylily Club . This first award was presented to John Yonski from Pittsburgh, for his cultivar SOPHIA’S LOVE, and to Steve and Sarah Zolock for growing the winning clump in their garden. This award will be presented annually at Region 3 meetings, and is the beginning of a great tradition for our region, as well as for BRADS.
During Elnora’s tenure, the club was finally able to bring to fruition another public service project that had long been a goal of Dr. Wente’s. Under the capable leadership of Don Johnson, BRADS, thanks to generous donations by club members and hybridizers from all over the United States, was able to plant over $10,000 worth of daylilies at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. Jackie Wente was in charge of publicity for this event, which was covered in three local papers and on television. Carolyn Alley was instrumental in soliciting donations of plants from hybridizers, and John Euchler wrote an outstanding article about this event which was published in the Region 3 Fanfare and the AHS Journal.
During the summer of 2003, nine BRADS members attended their first AHS National Convention in Charlotte, N. C. After the experience of attending several regional meetings and a National convention, club members voted to host their first ever Region 3 meeting during 2005.
As we look to the future, we have many goals and projects still in the works. BRADS are looking forward to hosting our first Region 3 Meeting in the summer of 2005. We anticipate an outstanding program in January of 2004 when Pat and Grace Stamile will visit, and hope to maintain high standards for future programs in upcoming years. We plan to continue many of the wonderful traditions begun in the first eight years of BRADS. As we look to the future,all is well with daylilies in Southwest Virginia!
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