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Keshab Receives ARS Pioneer Award 2006

ImagePictured in the middle is Keshab Pradhan, retired Chief Secretary and Chief Forester of India’s smallest Himalayan mountain State, Sikkim, at the bottom Streetside of Ken Gibson’s garden in the Village of Tofino, on Vanisle’s West Coast. Gibson on left, Justice on right.Ken’s  and wife Dorothy’s home crowns the top of the hill surrounded by hundreds of hybrid and species rhodos like the size and colours to those pictured. It happens like this  during April and May  every spring !

Keshab Pradhan and his wife Shanti (not pictured) were on a 2006 visit to BC’s American Rhododendron Society (ARS) District I, Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland ARS Chapters prior to his being presented with the ARS Pioneer award at award at  the Societies Annual Meeting held in Victoria  He joins a select group of amateur & professional nursery and plantsmen whose passion was growing and breeding the genus rhododendrons as garden and landscape plants. Previous Pioneer Award winners were Britt Smith of the Tacoma Chapter and posthumously to George Fraser Rhododendron nurseryman in the 1920s& 30s in Village of  Ucluelet down Vanisles West Coast from the Gibson Garden inTofino. In those days there was no road the West coast. Day trippers used used to come up from Victoria on the  steamer Maquinna on her weekly voyages to Ucluelet to buy his hybrid, azalea fraseri and Waterer hybrids shipped in from England.. It was the very first nursery in the Province to markert Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

Pradan , President of Sikkim’s J. D. Hooker Chapter of the ARS was honoured for his pioneer work in recognizing and classifying Rhododendrons as trees in Sikkim and creating sanctuaries for Rhododendrons in forest areas throughout this mountainous state in northeast India, where the states of West Bengal, Nepal on the west, with the Kingdom of Bhutan on the east & in the north; Tibet, claimed by China.

The reason why the Sikkim ARS Chapter is titled the JD Hooker Chapter is that Joseph Dalton Hooker was son of William Jackson Hooker, Director of Kew Gardens the premier world’s depository of plants from 1820 until JD succeeded him as Head of Kew 1868.  Previous to this, Hooker senior had taught Botany at the University of Glasgow in Scotland where he qualified his son Dalton and others (David Douglas, John Scouler & William Fraser Tolmie) as Surgeon-Botanists or Surgeon Naturalists for the Navy of King George III.  Those men trained to serve as surgeons in times of war, especially the Napoleonic Wars with France from 1898-1815 and as  Botanists/Naturalists in times of peace.  This was especially true after 1815, when  the sailing ships of the English navy were given the tasks of charting the world’s as yet unmapped coastlines.

JD’s Dad secured a position for him on the Navy ship Endeavour, charting and botanizing the Antarctic islands, peninsulas & continent. He next tackled the Indian subcontinent by mapping and botanizing in Eastern India from Calcutta to Tibet by way of Bengal, Daarjeeling, Assam and Sikkim . While in Sikkim he discovered, described ,sending seed back to his father at Kew, 28 Rhododendron species of the 32 found in this alpine Himalayan kingdom. In 1848, before colour photography Hooker senior commissioned a double elephant size (coffee table) book with full page full colour stone lithographs of the 28 Sikkim Rhododendrons that Hooker Junior described and sketched. in the field.  The Hookers were both Knighted by Queen Victoria for their work.

JDH hired plenty of ‘coolies’for his collecting safaris, sat times there were 80 in his entourage: collectors, dryers, cooks guards & porters. He alone  wrote his discoveries up in his Journal (2 volumes). The fact that he was forbidden by the Sikkim king from even being in the country. He and is English Political liason Officer, Campbell were captured and imprisoned for 6 months, at last being only released to his friends in Daarjeeling still arrogant and hard done by, on Christmas eve 1850.

This was forgotten 125 years later when the Chapter was formed. One dark night in a rest house at Sandakpu(12000′ ) were Sikkim, Nepal and West Bengal meet , we were stranded at the top overnight with no lights, no food and no kit.  14 of us sat on the floor with our backs to the three walls of a back room with a smoky fire of on the fourth . It had a hole in the wall fireplace with recently cut rhodo grande tree limbs sputtering giving off little flame and less heat .  It was cold.  We passed around a bottle of Jack Daniels ‘Old No 7 Tennessee whisky singing songs and telling stories. Jack Daniels became our First JD Hooker Chapter Member. Our kits food, guides and carriers arrived in the morning to begin the first trek by ARS members . There were 2 Canadians on the trek the rest were from Seattle & Tacoma.  One of those Canadians is pictured on the Photo above.