2014 Annual Meeting in Atlanta

2014 Annual Meeting in Northern Georgia, USA

We would like to welcome you all (or “y’all” if you’re from the South) to Athens, Georgia, for the Magnolia Society International 2014 annual meeting. Home to world-renowned plant gurus Dr. Michael Dirr and Dr. Allan Armitage, Athens has long been one of the South’s premiere horticultural destinations. From a University of Georgia (UGA) campus arboretum tour by Dr. Dirr to exploring the grandeur of the European-style garden of Willis Harden to visiting the wonderful Atlanta Botanical Garden, this will be a meeting you will not want to miss!

The meeting will take place March 21-23, 2014, at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. The conference center is within walking distance of the University of Georgia trial gardens made famous by Dr. Armitage. Although there is a regional airport in Athens, there is also frequent shuttle service from the Atlanta airport right to the hotel.



Self-registration begins at noon in the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, 1197 South Lumpkin Street, Athens, Georgia 30602. Registration will be accessible throughout the meeting.

Board of Directors Meeting
The meeting will begin at noon in the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. Lunch is included.

Our Welcome Reception will begin at 7:00 pm with coffee and dessert in the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. At 8:00 pm, we will conduct our Annual General Meeting, followed by our featured guest speakers, Dan Hinkley and Scott McMahan. Dan is a well-known plantsman and author of The Explorer's Garden series of books. Scott is the owner of both McMahan’s Nursery in Clermont, Georgia, and Garden*Hood Nursery in Atlanta, Georgia. In the fall of 2013, Dan and Scott went on a plant exploration trip to northern Vietnam with Ozzie Johnson and Andrew Bunting. Besides Vietnam, Dan and Scott’s expeditions in the past have led one or both of them to China, Korea, Japan, Nepal and Taiwan. In their presentations tonight, Dan and Scott will talk about some of the exciting adventures they have experienced during their travels, including finding many magnolia species.


Field Trip
In the morning, we will travel a short distance north to Commerce, Georgia, to visit the property of Willis Harden. Willis is the owner of Homeplace Garden Nursery, a wholesale nursery specializing in Japanese maples, rhododendrons, and other shadeloving plants. Here we will tour the 30 acres of garden that Willis has created over the last 50 years. 

Willis has a keen interest in camellias, rhododendrons and, of course, magnolias. He has been pushing the limits of what will grow in Georgia for a long time and has the specimen plants to show for it. Along with all the wonderful magnolias, camellias, and rhododendrons, Willis has an extremely large Emmenopterys henryi. It will be a great treat to tour his spectacular property.

From Commerce we will head west to Gainesville, Georgia, where we will have a boxed lunch before touring Smithgall Woodland Garden (SWG). SWG is an extension of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The 180-acre property was donated by the Smithgall family with the purpose of preserving the beautiful land and to create a new botanical garden. In the summer of 2013, construction began on the new garden. There should be enough progress by the time we hold our meeting that MSI will be the very first organization to tour this budding entry into the plant world.

There are already about 3 acres of greenhouse and nursery space at SWG which are home to many unusual containerized plants, including a large Magnolia collection of over 200 different cultivars and species. Much work has been done with cutting propagation to get the magnolias on their own roots, and many of them are already in the ground. The magnolias at SWG, along with those at Atlanta Botanical Garden, are part of the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC) multi-institutional Magnolia collection.

Our host for the 2014 meeting, Ethan Guthrie, is also the greenhouse/ nursery manager at SWG and he looks forward to showing us around their propagation facility. Ethan plans to point out the different Asian evergreen species they have been able to propagate, as well as many deciduous species and complex hybrids. Among these are some that have been collected over the years by Scott McMahan and his companions, including the first Magnolia sapaensis to bloom in the eastern United States. 

Along with magnolias, SWG has an extensive Acer species collection, as well as Hydrangea and Hamamelis. All of the plants at SWG are being grown for the future garden, as well as to support new plantings at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. When we are done at SWG, we will take a quick trip up the road to McMahan’s Nursery for plant shopping opportunities. McMahan’s grows many unusual woody and herbaceous plants. We should also be able to see more of Scott’s plant collections from his journeys to different parts of Asia.

Evening Banquet
We will congregate at the hotel at 6:00 pm for cocktails from the cash bar followed by dinner at 7:00 pm. Our keynote speaker will be Vince Dooley, former UGA head football coach. Some of you may know of Coach Dooley, but many of you are probably wondering why we would have a football coach as our speaker. Well, the answer is that when Coach Dooley retired from coaching he became very interested in gardening. With Dr. Dirr and Dr. Armitage as mentors, his journey to becoming as renowned in the plant world as he is in the football world is inspirational. Coach Dooley has written a wonderful book called Vince Dooley’s Garden: The Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach. The great Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Dooley’ was named for him by Dr. Michael Dirr. Coach Dooley’s talk is one you will be glad that you heard!


IMPORTANT NOTICE: Hotel transfer
The UGA Hotel and Conference Center has hosted a large avian convention for the last several years and had committed its guest rooms to them months before we contacted UGA. Unfortunately for us, their convention begins on Sunday evening. However, we were unable to find a facility with all the amenities required for our meeting that could compete with the offer of this hotel. Our early registration rate of $250 for members is a reflection of the concessions made by the UGA Hotel. 

In addition, they will secure space for us at an overflow hotel at the same $109 per night rate we negotiated with them, including free parking. We will ensure that we have ample time in the morning to check out of the UGA Hotel and in the afternoon to check in to the overflow hotel. The UGA Hotel will store our luggage in a safe location at no charge on Sunday, and coordinate free shuttle service to and from the overflow hotel on Sunday. A shuttle will pick us up at the overflow hotel in time for Sunday evening’s activities at the UGA Conference Center, and return us upon request.

Complete details about the hotel transfer are included in the FAQs.

We realize that this may inconvenient for you, and you can certainly make individual reservations elsewhere.

Field Trip
Sunday morning we will head about an hour west into the heart of Atlanta to the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG). There we will be greeted by staff members and treated to tours of this world-class garden. The mission of ABG is to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, research, conservation, and enjoyment. Over the years they have developed an exemplary plant conservation program, which includes multiple NAPCC registered collections. 

One of those, as mentioned earlier, is Magnolia, with an emphasis on species plants. They also do a great job with their educational programs and bring many people to the garden with annual exhibits, concerts in the garden, and an excellent holiday light show. Along with all of this, ABG’s annual spring display “Atlanta Blooms” should be cranking up when we are there. It is truly an impressive sight. After our tour of the garden we will have lunch before heading back to Athens.

UGA Campus Arboretum Tour
On our return to Athens, we will have the privilege of taking campus arboretum tours led by Dr. Michael Dirr and Dr. Tim Smalley. Dr. Dirr’s influence on horticulture has certainly been far-reaching. Most of us know Dr. Dirr from his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants or, as some of us refer to it, “The Bible of Woody Plants.” Noted professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, Dr. Dirr fostered the University of Georgia Plant Introduction program from 1981 to 2007. 

His program has been widely emulated by other universities, and it has contributed more than 100 new plants to the industry. He now works as a founding partner of Plant Introductions, Inc. in Watkinsville, Georgia, where breeding work is being done on many different plant groups including hydrangeas, crepe myrtles, and lilacs. Many new and exciting plants promise to come out of this breeding program. It will be an honor to have Dr. Dirr show us around his long-time stomping grounds.

To facilitate what may be a rather large number of participants, we will split into two groups. We are fortunate that Dr. Tim Smalley will be our second campus arboretum tour guide. Dr. Smalley forged his plant and gardening expertise at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as serving as the assistant director of the botanic garden at Cornell University.

A teaching assistant to Dr. Dirr for five years, Dr. Smalley had his knowledge refined by spending time with one of the nation’s premier plantsmen. Dr. Smalley has conducted extensive research on the effect of various soil amendments on plant growth and water stress tolerance of ornamental plants, and he teaches many horticulture classes at the University of Georgia.

The campus arboretum has over 150 different kinds of trees and is used as a teaching lab for Botany, Forestry, Ecology, Horticulture, and Landscape Architecture classes. Dr. Dirr and Dr. Smalley will lead tours in different parts of the arboretum. Then the two groups will switch guides so that we all experience the expertise of each gentleman and see the same garden highlights.

Evening Banquet and Plant Auction
Sunday evening will begin at 6:00 pm in the hotel with cocktails from the cash bar. After our 7:00 pm dinner, we will proceed with our annual plant auction. This promises to be an auction to remember! As the greenhouse/nursery manager at Smithgall Woodland Garden and our meeting host, Ethan Guthrie has been holding back special “goodies” just for this meeting close to home, and he is sure that local colleagues will be contributing some real gems as well. Ethan looks forward to taking other donations of plants, books, artwork, etc. Please email him about any contributions you would like to make: eguthrie@atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

It should be a great evening of fun, fellowship, and bidding! Hopefully all members attending can add a new plant to their collections.


Sunday night is the official end to the meeting. The following suggestions require that you provide your own transportation and lodging, if required.

The mileage and travel times between destinations vary based on route and traffic, and there is not a set pattern. You could select any of the locations in whatever order you choose, and get precise directions on the Internet. This is simply an indication of the area covered, starting in Athens and traveling generally northeast to the furthest location, which is Spartanburg Community College. 

From Athens to Jack Johnston’s garden is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. Traveling from Jack’s to the Figlars will also take about 1:45. Driving time between the Figlars and Bauers is roughly 45 minutes. Travel from the Bauers to Spartanburg Community College takes almost an hour. To help evaluate individual segments, travel time from Athens directly to the Figlars or the Bauers is about 2 hours. The trip straight from Athens to Spartanburg Community College should take 2.5 to 3 hours. 

Basing your travel out of Athens would enable you to take advantage of our preferred hotel room rate. Additionally, the many top-notch nurseries in the Athens area might provide another incentive to stay in the area before or after the meeting.

State Botanical Garden of Georgia (This could also be a pre-meeting destination.)
2450 South Milledge Avenue, Athens, Georgia 30606
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a 313-acre preserve set aside by the University of Georgia (UGA) in 1968 for the study and enjoyment of plants and nature. Located 3 miles south of the UGA campus, the garden is a living laboratory serving the University and the citizens of Georgia. It contains a number of specialized gardens and collections, over five miles of nature trails, and four major facilities including a tropical conservatory. Parking and admission are free! For more information about the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, please visit their website at http://botgarden.uga.edu.

Private garden of Jack Johnston, access available anytime after 9 am Monday, March 24.
422 Neptune Lane, Lakemont, Georgia 30552
The first magnolia planted at Jack Johnston's garden was a bigleaf magnolia, in 1998. It is now 35 feet tall. Each year additional magnolias have been added to bring the total to more than 60 different varieties. Of these, half bloomed in 2013 and the remainder are too small. A good growing season should bring more of them to flowering size in 2014. The garden is located at an elevation of 1800 feet in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains just 4 miles from the beginning of the Piedmont of Georgia. The plants are on an east-facing slope which provides winter views of Lake Rabun. A collection of eight species of deciduous Stewartia is also present in the garden. A series of paths facilitates easy viewing of the collection.

Private garden of Dick and Anita Figlar, access available anytime Monday, March 24.
651 Newton Road, Pickens, South Carolina 29671
Nestled within a 20-acre mountainside woodland in the Blue Ridge foothills of western South Carolina is Dick and Anita Figlars’ Magnolian Grove Arboretum. This magnolia-centric "study arboretum" was established in 1992 in order to grow, observe and evaluate as many Magnolia species as possible in this mesic zone 8a climate. The collection has now grown to over 46 species, with nearly half of these (22) being South Asian evergreen species. Some of the more notable accessions include the original plant of Magnolia insignis #355, the North American introduction of M. changhungtana, large established plants of M. lotungensis, M. kwangtungensis (Mo-to magnolia), M. maudiae, M. foveolata, the rarely cultivated (in the Southeast) M. delavayi and M. fordiana, and many other uncommon species. Wild in-situ Magnolia acuminata and M. fraseri are also present.

Private garden of Boris and Jane Bauer, access available anytime Monday, March 24.
To drop by on Tuesday, please call first: home 864-269-9714 cell: 864-905-0726
112 Woodward Way, Easley, South Carolina 29640
The Bauers’ collection, begun in 1990, continues to diversify as older, non-performing accessions are occasionally removed, making room for newer introductions. Magnolias are scattered about the Bauers’ 6-acre home site, but concentrated on approximately 2 acres. This rich and moist alluvial natural flood plain contains over 40 deciduous magnolias, mostly Yulania hybrids that grow robustly in this setting. Wander down a trail behind the home, then venture through a 35-year-old rhododendron garden and out into an open field of magnolias. Here you will find magnolias of well-known hybridizers, past and present, but many of the prevalent examples are those of the results of breeding work done by Todd Gresham and Frank Galyon.

Some of the cultivars planted here are among the largest and finest accessions growing in the Southeast, including 'Paul Cook', 'Vulcan', ‘Raspberry Swirl’, ‘Yellow Lantern’ and ‘Sangreal’. Hopefully, Boris will continue his tradition of having samples of Norton grape wines waiting for us in the shaded areas of the garden. To entice you a bit further, check out his 4-minute video of Jeff Heon’s impressions of this garden.

Spartanburg Community College Arboretum
107 Community College Drive, Spartanburg, South Carolina 29303
Tours to be led by Kevin Parris, SCC Horticulture Instructor and Arboretum Coordinator
Access available 3 – 6 pm Monday, March 24 and 12 – 6 pm Tuesday, March 25*
The Spartanburg Community College (SCC) Horticulture Program has been growing for 44 years. During that time, the grounds have become an arboretum. Construction over the past 16 years has led to numerous landscape renovations and new planting opportunities. An unwritten rule for the grounds is "if we already have that cultivar represented, we don't need another one." This has led to a diversely landscaped 90-acre campus. 

In the last five years the magnolia collection has exploded to include over 100 taxa, including groves of M. macrophylla and M. acuminata, and seed producing specimens of M. yuyuanensis, M. sapaensis, and M. delavayi. Through the generosity of individuals like Dick Figlar, Tom Ranney, Jack Johnston, Bill Smith, Dennis Ledvina, Scott McMahan, Ethan Guthrie, Mark Krautmann, Greg Paige, Bob Head, and others via the MSI seed counter, they have acquired the plants, seed, and pollen to assemble an ever-growing list of accessions to landscape their campus, generate new hybrids, propagate for in-house plant sales, and distribute to other gardens with an interest in magnolias.

SCC has several trial beds for evaluation of the Bill Smith hybrid M. yuyuanensis x M. insignis, and many individuals of the cross M. foveolata x M. laevifolia performed by Kevin Parris in cooperation with Dick Figlar and Tom Ranney. Staff are also evaluating the Bill Smith hybrids M. laevifolia x M. maudiae and M. laevifolia x M. champaca. The gardens have several rapidly growing specimens of Dennis Ledvina's M. 'Silk Road' x M. insignis and a couple of specimens of his exciting hybrid M. sieboldii 'Colossus' x M. insignis have already flowered. The first individual of Kevin's cross M. insignis x M. fraseri is also planted in their gardens.

The incredible Milliken Arboretum with a wonderful array of magnolias is just a minute down the road for those interested in another brief stop.
*Please contact Kevin Parris before the meeting or see him at the meeting to coordinate a visit to Spartanburg Community College and/or the Milliken Arboretum during the times listed above. (864-809-4383; parrisk@sccsc.edu)


Q: When is the meeting registration deadline?

The registration deadline to receive the lowest price for the meeting is November 30, 2013. All registrations must be received by January 31, 2014. We cannot guarantee availability or pricing after that date; however, we will attempt to accommodate late registrations.

Q: What is the meeting hotel information?

UGA Hotel and Conference Center
1197 S. Lumpkin Street
Athens, GA 30602
Reservations: 800-884-1381 or www.UGAhotel.com

Q: Do I have to make my own hotel guest room reservations?

Yes. The most convenient way to make your room reservation is to call 800-884-1381 or register online at www.UGAhotel.com. When booking your reservation, be sure to identify your affiliation with the Magnolia Society International and refer to hotel block code 82212 to ensure that you receive our preferential room rate of $109.00 per night. This is for single or double occupancy in Classic King, Queen or Singles rooms. Reservations must be made by February 28, 2014.

Q: Do I have to stay at this hotel to attend the meeting?

No, but all of the scheduled events other than garden tours will be held at the UGA Hotel, and tours will leave each morning from this hotel.

Q: Will I be staying at this hotel for the entire conference?

No. Because of a previously scheduled event at the UGA Hotel, MSI members will need to transfer to a different, overflow hotel on Sunday.

Q: Do I need to make a separate registration at this overflow hotel?

No. Simply make your reservation with the UGA Hotel as if no transfer was involved. Tell them the total duration of your stay. They will reserve rooms at the UGA Hotel through Saturday night and make reservations with the overflow hotel for Sunday and beyond, if you choose to stay longer.

Q: Will the same room rate apply for the overflow hotel?

Yes. The same special guest rate of $109.00 per night will apply for single or double occupancy at the overflow hotel in rooms comparable to Classic King, Queen or Singles rooms. When will I need to transfer between hotels? MSI members will need to check out of the UGA Hotel before we leave on our tour Sunday morning, and check in to the overflow hotel before dinner on Sunday evening.

Q: What will I do with my luggage on Sunday?

The UGA Hotel will provide a safe location to store luggage at no charge during the day Sunday.

Q: Will I have time to transfer between hotels?

Yes. We will include ample time in the schedule to check out of the UGA Hotel Sunday morning and in to the overflow hotel Sunday afternoon.

Q: How will I get to and from the overflow hotel?

Both the UGA and overflow hotels provide free shuttle service. The UGA Hotel will coordinate that service for us on Sunday, ensuring that MSI members arrive at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center in time for the Sunday evening events. We will be returned to the overflow hotel upon request Sunday evening.

Q: Do I have to pay to park?

No. Parking is free at both the UGA Hotel and overflow hotel.

What if I want to arrive before or leave after the meeting dates?

The MSI special rate will be honored 3 days prior to March 21 at the UGA Hotel and 3 days after March 23 at the overflow hotel.

Q: What if I don’t want to transfer hotels?

You may make room reservations anywhere you choose. It will be your responsibility to arrive at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center in time to participate in the scheduled events.

Q: Is breakfast included in the room rate?

No. Breakfast is on your own. The UGA Hotel and Conference Center offers breakfast in the Courtyard Café. There is also a full service coffee shop featuring Starbucks in the hotel.

Q: I don’t eat red meat. Is this a problem?

No. There is a space on the Registration Form to indicate special requests, such as vegan or gluten-free meals. Dinners and lunches will include a vegetarian option.

Q: Which airport should I use?

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL).

Q: Is airport ground transportation available from the Atlanta airport?

Yes. Groome Transportation provides 18 round trips daily between Athens and the Atlanta Airport. Locations served in Athens include the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, the Holiday Inn and the Athens West Shopping Center. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance: 800-896-9928 or 706-410- 2363. Complete information is available at www.groometransportation.com/index.php/athens.

Q: What about renting a car?

The airport has multiple car rental agencies.

Q: Will there be opportunities to buy plants on any of our tours?

Yes. On Saturday we will visit McMahan’s Nursery where there will be plants for sale.

Q: My significant other would like to join me for the meeting. Is there a way to get the membership discount rate for the meeting without enrolling him/her as a member?

Yes. Renew your membership at the family level. Family membership means all the members of the household may attend an Annual Meeting at the members’ rate. It also means that each household will only receive one copy of the Journals, Newsletters, and seed counter. Family level dues are $40 for US members and $45 for non-US members. Individual dues are $30 for US members and $35 for non-US members.

Q: What if my traveling companion would rather explore the area than join me on the day trips?

You register for the meeting. Your companion can spend the days as he or she chooses, and then join you for dinner. The Registration Form includes an option to pay for dinner only on Saturday and/or Sunday.

I want to donate a magnolia or other material for the auction. Whom should I contact?

Ethan Guthrie at 770-630- 0906 or eguthrie@atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

Q: Will any event require physical fitness?

The planned tours are similar to those we have taken in the past. Most areas we will visit will be relatively flat, but they will not all be paved.

Q: What kind of weather should I expect?

Since this will be nearly mid-spring for the greater Athens region, the weather is usually quite pleasant. Historically, the average daily maximum for the 3rd week of March is 68° F (20° C), the average minimum is 44° F (7° C) and average rainfall for the month is 4.5” (11.5 cm). However, March temperatures in the South can often vary considerably from those averages, with daytime highs as warm as the 80s° F (27° C) on some days to as cold as the 50s° F (10° C) on others. Rain that time of year comes mainly from relatively brief showers or thunderstorms rather than from prolonged rainstorms, but of course rainy days can and do occur.

Q: What is the cancellation policy?

There will be a 5% administration fee if you cancel your meeting registration request.

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