The presentation brought over from Europe
Willi Hufnagl gave a brief introductory lecture to the ladies and gentlemen of the International Oleander Society, as well to the invited members and guests, regarding the messages and greetings from abroad.
In the region of Central Europe where I live, there is an oleander tradition dating back centuries. Oleanders are grown in pots, tubs, and barrels. Our winters are too cold – oleanders planted outside would not survive. People love their oleanders and they are found almost everywhere: in gardens, on terraces, in inner courtyards, in open-air restaurants, and in public squares in the cities. This tradition stems from the noble classes of earlier centuries who could afford to have beautiful gardens designed which contained plants from southern climes. In more recent times, the oleander embodies the Dream of the South - warmth, sun, beach, and sea – where Central and Northern Europeans most like to go for vacation. In the countries around the Mediterranean, the countries of Southern Europe and North Africa, oleanders don’t need to be protected from winters that are too cold, of course; they simply get planted, they grow almost everywhere and are practically ubiquitous.
In my homeland of Austria, in the state of Burgenland, the connection with oleanders is so far-reaching that people even refer to “the Burgenland Oleander”. What they mean by that are the old single- and double-flowered varieties – pink and white. They are also called “Schlosspark-Oleander“ or “castle-park oleanders”, as they were bred for palace gardens. People inherit them from their parents or propagate them from cuttings. The disadvantage of these oleanders: They get very large and sooner or later become very difficult to manage. The millions of oleanders which people buy in supermarkets – unnamed, usually kept small artificially with growth regulators – don’t usually survive very long.
All this describes the state of knowledge about oleanders as well; in general, people don’t know much more.
And so, with this, I am establishing a connection with American oleander culture. Oleander connoisseurs and collectors are well aware that there is an oleander tradition in the southern USA, that Galveston, the “Oleander City”, is the center of this tradition, and that the International Oleander Society has dedicated itself to the cultivation and preservation of this tradition and of the varieties that have originated here. And some American varieties are already represented in European collections and nurseries (We know that Jim Nicholas has not been entirely uninvolved in the introduction and publicizing of American cultivars…)
There is a valid reason why we should occupy ourselves more with American varieties: The old, traditional European cultivars are huge – only recently have French and Italian nurserymen created smaller-growing varieties. However, there is a whole series of American varieties which are of small or intermediate growth habit, and which are hardly or not at all represented.
With that, I come around to the statistical work which I brought with me and which I will present additionally. From this work, which at the moment comprises 575 oleander names, it is clearly apparent that in Europe, a large number of American cultivars are not mentioned in the literature, do not appear on collectors’ lists, and are not even offered by nurseries or dealers. To a certain degree, the reverse is also true. A whole series of European varieties appears not to be represented in the USA. This statement does not take into account, of course, whether despite all this these oleander varieties are known to specialists even though they don’t appear anywhere.
With the introduction and presentation of this oleander list, I would very much like to establish the foundation for a future collaboration.