21 Aug 2014
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Dr. Gary Becker - The Man Behind Homestead Park

UP Patch's perennial (no pun intended) garden expert shares the story of one of UP's great gardening personalities.

Dr. Gary Becker - The Man Behind Homestead Park

Who’s the man behind the Rhododendron garden at Homestead Park?

Unlike our native rhododendrons, Dr. Gary Becker is a transplant from the southern everglades of Florida. During his high school years Gary became involved with the ecology and orchids of the everglades. As a young college student he contributed to the native orchid collection at the University of Florida. 

He continued his studies at Johns Hopkins and Duke University. During that time he explored the flora of the Appalachian Mountains. After serving for two years in the Air Force he moved his family to the Puget Sound area in 1971 and bought his first rhododendrons while living in Olympia. One was red and one was pink.  Smitten with the beauty of these plants and the endless possibilities of hybridization a long love affair was begun. 

For the last twenty years, Gary has served as a chapter officer and acting director for the Gig Harbor chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. He has been a “show chairman” for local rhododendron shows and “display chairman” for the Tacoma and Olympia shows. He is a member of the Rhododendron Species Foundation in Federal Way.

Gary also acts as a consultant and assists with many local rhododendron planting projects including Lakewold Gardens in Lakewood.  And lucky for UP he has been instrumental in the design and development of Homestead Park. Gary continues to be involved in Homestead Park by serving on the Friends of Homestead Park committee and contributing time, energy and plants.

As a hybridizer, Gary has developed a series of new hybrids called the “Homestead Series” with just a few now becoming available to the public.  His interest lies in propagating cultivars that are not readily available at retail nurseries.  His emphasis is with old classics, local hybridizers, unique foliage plants and species, and rhododendrons native to North America. 

Gary will be at the Flower show and Plant sale this weekend.  He will have some of his rhododendrons for sale.  Be sure to stop by to say hello and thank him for the many years of service and expertise he has given to Homestead Park and the citizens of University Place.

Barbara Lee

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