History of NZRA

The New Zealand Rhododendron Association Inc. or NZRA was formed in 1944 The Association was incorporated in August 1945. The objects of the new Association were:-

To act as a common meeting ground for Rhododendron enthusiasts and

To encourage the cultivation, the study and the improvement of Rhododendrons by such means as the Association see fit.

Click here to read an article written by J.S. Yeates for the 10th anniversary of the founding of NZRA


1940s (early) Sir Geoffrey Peren, Principal of Massey Agricultural College suggests to the College Arboretum Committee that a Rhododendron Association be formed. Members were Prof. Peren, Dame Elizabeth Knox-Gilmour, Mr WD Cook, Mr VC Davies, and Dr JS Yeates.
10/8/1944 Professor Peren called a special meeting at which the motion 'that a New Zealand Rhododendron Association be formed by those present' was passed unanimously. Provisional officers were WD Cook as Chairman & JS Yeates as secretary/treasurer.
6/9/1944 Letter sent out to prospective members
4/10/1944  First Annual General Meeting. Mr Edgar Stead elected first President, Prof. GS Peren Chairman and Dr JS Yeates Secretary/Treasurer. Adoption of first rules. JS Edmonstone offered to attend to drafting rules, pre-incorporation.
4/8/1945 Certificate of Incorporation
1947  Post war food parcels sent to RHS staff
1948 The Botanical Department of Massey College undertook to grow (on it's own grounds) plants for distribution to members which was a major NZRA function for nearly thirty years. Sources were Edgar Stead's collection, seed imported from RBGE, United Kingdom garden collections, Pacific Northwest of America, and southern areas of NZ, and later the (NZRA supported) expeditions of Kingdon-Ward.
1949 Donation to Kingdon-Ward plant hunting Expedition to the Himalayas.
1950  WD Cook offers land at Pukeiti to the NZRA Council who were unable to accept, but many NZRA members were involved in the future Pukeiti Trust.
1951 WD Cook of Eastwoodhill, Gisborne, purchases 60 acres at Pukeiti, Taranaki. Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust established.
(Click here to go to links page)
1952 Rules amended.
Plant distribution commences, some with K-W numbers
1958 International Rhododendron Register established
1964 Rhododendron Species Foundation formed
USA seed exchange-first list published
1967 First women on NZRA Council (elected 1966)
Tour of Pacific Northwest
Lease of one acre at Kimbolton
1970 Purchase of land at Haggerty Street, Kimbolton.
1971 NZRA donations over five years to further Rhododendron Species Foundation (USA).
Chalet built at Kimbolton
1972 Tour to the United Kingdom via USA.
1973 Additional land purchased at Kimbolton.
1975 New Zealand Rhododendron Register established.
Philipsons publish Revision of Lapponicum Rhododendrons.
Shade House built at Kimbolton.
1982 Award of Merit Scheme developed during period 1982-86
1984 Equality of election - men & women to the NZRA Council.
1986 Certificate of Affiliation to the RHS.
1988 Calendar produced featuring rhododendrons.
1992 NZRA Council receives advice from the Ministry of Ag & Fish diagnostic station that a consignment of cuttings ex Scotland had been destroyed because of the presence of a powdery mildew fungus unknown to NZ.
1994 Notecards produced featuring NZ bred AM rhododendrons.
Dame Catherine Tizard opens new gates at Kimbolton Garden.
Hilary Commission ceases funding for Bulletin.
1997 Affiliation of Regional Rhododendron Groups (RHS model).
Association ceased employment of professional secretary/treasurer.
1998 'Crossing the Rubicon', a handbook of NZ raised rhododendrons published by Canterbury Rhododendron Society.
1999 Kimbolton Garden receives official name. 'Heritage Park, Kimbolton, the National Garden of the New Zealand Rhododendron Association'.
Second series of Notecards published.
2002 Logo adopted.
NZRA Strategic Plan published
2004 New Zealand Rhododendron Association 60th Jubilee.
New Zealand Rhododendron Association website set up. (www.rhododendron.org.nz)
2005 Referendum of membership in favour of setting up Heritage Park
as an independent trust.
New Zealand Rhododendron Association rewritten rules adopted at AGM
2006 Heritage Park set up as an independent trust.
2008 NZRA registered as a Charitable Organisation
2011 Frank Kingdon-Ward letters archived with the Hocken Library, University of Otago
2013 Joint annual publication of The Rhododendron with Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust
2014  NZRA website redesigned.
2014 International Rhododendron Conference held in Dunedin -  NZRA's 70th Jubilee.
2016 Major progress on the Species Conservation project. Cuttings obtained from a
Dunedin garden.
2016 Transition from trial based NZ hybrid project to the conservation of endangered and
little known NZ hybrids.
2017 Promotional brochure distributed to nurseries
2017  NZRA Facebook page set up.
2018 NZRA managed the sale of the Ken Cox book 'Woodland Gardening'
2018 NZ now part of the International Rhododendron Conservation Consortium.
2019 Laptops purchased for NZRA Treasurer and Secretary.
2019 Two vireya species confirmed in Australia using DNA technology. NZRA helped with
funding research.
2019  Rebranding  - The term 'Conference' replaced with 'Rhodenza'.
2020 Planned Timaru Rhodenza cancelled due to Covid pandemic. AGM held via email
and mail.
2020 Council meetings changed from teleconferencing to SKYPE. No face to face Council
2021 Rhodenza Taranaki cancelled at the last minute due to Covid pandemic. No face to
face Council meeting.
2022 Sue Gardiner's role on the Pukeiti Trust now includes NZRA liaison person with Pukeiti