The Eureka Chapter usually meets on the fourth Thursday of each month from September through June. There is no meeting in November and the December meeting is usually held on the first Thursday. Occasionally, the meeting day will change to accommodate a special program or event.
Most meetings are held at the Eureka Women‘s Club, 1531 J Street, Eureka, at 7 p.m. The June meeting is held in conjunction with the Chapter’s annual Garden Tour and takes the form of a picnic at one of the gardens we visit.
Food is an essential part of a Eureka Chapter meeting and potluck dinners are a feature of the September and December meetings, which start at 6 p.m. The June picnic follows the Garden Tour, which is held on a Sunday, beginning at 10 a.m. There is no meeting in July, August and November.
Members meet for a no-host dinner at a local restaurant before other meetings. Restaurants are selected by the Board of Directors and announced in the newsletter each month. Reservations are required to ensure that enough seating is available. Favorite places include Sea Grill, Gonsea, Roy’s Club, Marcelli’s, Kyoto and Adel’s and the Board is always open to suggestions for new places.
Guests are always welcome at Eureka Chapter meetings. Members who bring a guest receive a free plant (they are encouraged to give it to the guest!), and guests who join at a meeting receive a free plant as well.
A plant raffle is held at each meeting (it’s how we pay the rent); there’s a door prize (you must sign in on the sign-in sheet to be eligible); and, of course, light refreshments during the break. Typical attendance is usually 50 to 60 members (the Chapter has more than 100 members) and meetings last less than two hours. Business matters are generally handled by the Board and kept to an absolute minimum at membership meetings.
During the rhododendron bloom season, meetings feature a “show-and-tell” table for members to display flowers from their own gardens. Each May, the regular meeting becomes a mini-flower show. Unlike the public show held the last weekend in April, the mini-show is limited to members only and includes cash prizes. Members and guests attending the meeting judge the show in two rounds – first, they select winners in the nine categories, then a second round of judging among the nine blue-ribbon winners picks the “Best of Show” winner.
Speakers and topics are wide-ranging and include how-to programs by rhododendron and gardening experts, travelogues by modern-day plant hunters, garden projects by local nursery folks, and rhododendron and companion plant care by local or visiting gardeners or other experts. Virtually all programs include slide shows and we ask speakers to limit their presentations to about 40 minutes. There is always time for questions and a chance after the meeting to talk with the speakers.
Recent speakers have included Steve Hootman, curator of the Rhododendron Species Foundation in Federal Way, Washington, and a plant hunter of some renown; Mike Stewart, a past president of the American Rhododendron Society and Oregon nursery owner; Don Wallace, co-owner of Singing Tree nursery in McKinleyville and a rhododendron hybridizer and member of Eureka Chapter; Elaine Sedlack, a horticulturist at the University of California Botanic Garden in Berkeley and member and past president of the California Chapter of the ARS in Oakland; Harold Greer, owner of Greer Gardens in Eugene, Oregon, as well as a past president of the ARS; Bruce Palmer, a retired botany professor and past president of Eureka Chapter; and Tim Walsh, past president of Eureka Chapter and volunteer curator (with his wife June) of the Larry Moss Temperate Woodland Garden at the Humboldt Botanic Garden.