HAYWOOD COMMUNITY COLLEGE

185 FREEDLANDER DRIVE

CLYDE, NORTH CAROLINA 28721

CONTACT: DEBBIE DAVIS

OR DIANA CONARD

PHONE: 627-4521

DATE: 07-22-04

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HCC LEARNING RESOURCE CENTER RECEIVES COLLECTION OF RHODODENDRON AND AZALEA BOOKS

The Haywood Community College Learning Resource Center recently received a collection of books on rhododendrons and azaleas that may be one of the most complete collections on the genus in the south.

Jeanie McNees delivered the collection of her late husband, Atwell David "Pete" McNees, to the HCC Learning Resource Center in what proved to be a bittersweet event. McNees found comfort in the fact that the collection was exactly where her husband thought it should be.

According to Jeanie McNees, her husband set out to collect everything ever printed on rhododendrons and azaleas and ended up with a collection of over 300 items.

McNees started out with one lone plant in his rhododendron garden and ended up with thousands in their Tuscumbia, Alabama home. McNees, also known as "Mayor of the Yard," bought a cement mixer to mix the soil of his garden.

"Every inch of our yard was covered," Jeanie McNees stated on a recent visit to the HCC campus. "Our home was a garden spot enjoyed by many visitors each spring."

But how did the Alabama couple cross paths with HCC? The fateful meeting happened many years ago when Pete McNees attended a rhododendron convention where HCC campus arboretum director and forestry instructor John Palmer was a speaker. McNees was impressed by what Palmer had to say and visited the HCC campus and Rhododendron Garden several times afterward.

McNees had a passion for growing and propagating rhododendrons and shared his knowledge and plants freely, the same way he is now sharing his printed collection. He spent ten years as a judge for the Atlanta Rhododendron and Azalea Flower Show. He was a senior judge for four years. McNees did experimental work for Greer Gardens, a west coast nursery. He developed an improved method of rooting native azaleas, which is now used by many propagators.

McNees was a member of numerous rhododendron societies, as well as a Master Juror for the American Rhododendron Society (ARS). He authored many articles for the ARS and other publications. He presented slide shows to garden clubs, delivered technical papers to regional meetings of the ARS, and gave demonstrations of rooting methods. He maintained correspondence to Australian, German, and Canadian Rhododendron Societies, and the British Royal Horticultural Society.

Before his death, McNees wrote, "My aim is to further the interest of anyone interested in plants. My ambition in furthering the genus rhododendron is to educate and to pass it on."

What McNees passed on to HCC will be housed in a special room in the school’s new library. The extensive collection includes resource books and some first editions.

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Photo attached. (Cutline:) Jeanie McNees (center) is shown presenting some of the books in her late husband’s, Pete McNees, rhododendron and azalea collection to LRC librarian Polly Sloan (right) and HCC President, Dr. Nathan Hodges.