A History of The New England Hosta Society
Carol Brashear, Woodbury, CT with Barbara Jones, Chelmsford, MA
   Elsewhere in this Online Journal, there is a reprint of Alex Summers acceptance speech from 1982. That year, Ronald Reagan was the US president and the Cold War continued. AT&T was broken up, the Falklands War occurred, the Toyota Camry was introduced, the Commodore 64 computer was released, and Michael Jackson's Thriller was heard everywhere for the first time. The DOW topped 1,000, but finished below 850 as another recession hit, and record- breaking cold swept the Midwest in January.
   The hosta world that year was different from the one we know today. The range of hostas had been expanding for quite some time, and there were many great hostas to choose from - several hundred in fact. Among the registrations for that year were ' Blue Arrow', 'Christmas Tree', 'Fragrant Bouquet', 'Golden Sculpture', 'Piedmont Gold', and 'Sunshine Glory'. Hosta tissue culture was only getting started, and most of the hostas sold were OS (Originator Stock) divisions.
   The AHS was 14 years old and the only local hosta society was the fledgling Alabama Hosta Society, which was established the year before. Only it, the AHS and the Midwest Regional Society were on the U.S. hosta map. I'll let my friend Barbara take us back to the beginning of the NEHS.

From a profile of Constance "Connie" Williams by Barbara Jones in the NEHS Hosta News, Winter 1996:

   "It amazed me to find that Constance Williams, the daughter of Frances Williams, never did anything with, or was particularly interested in hostas until she was 60. At that time her mother needed help digging plants in the garden, so like a good daughter, she dug for her mother. After a number of diggings, Connie was "hooked" on hostas.

   In June of 1982, she boarded a plane for the National Convention in Raleigh, NC. Her seatmate by coincidence was Kurt Tramposch. Her hosta leaves stuck out of a bag, and Kurt confessed to having leaves in his knapsack. Thus started a chain of events. Neither was too pleased with the hosta display at the Case Estates at the time. The garden needed more hostas and more variety. Soon Constance Williams sent 79 plants to the Case Estates and later sent 18 others.
   The New England people at the convention in 1982 were led by Constance Williams, who had help from Kurt Tramposch, Mildred Seaver, and Jean Philbrick. The Case Estate planting was discussed. After their return to New England, more people were involved: Gary Koller, Mabel Herweg, Carl Calderara, and Barbara Emeneau.
   In October, 1982, Miss Williams had to her home Mildred Seaver, Mabel Herweg, Carl Calderara, and Kurt Tramposch to discuss to discuss the Case display garden and to talk about forming a New England hosta society. The interim officers were President - Constance Williams, Vice President - Mabel Herweg, Secretary - Mildred Seaver, and the Treasurer was Carl Calderara.
   Constance Williams follows through on what she starts. In December, 1982 all met at Mildred Seaver's house to finalize the forming of the New England Hosta Society. They applied to the Commonwealth (of Massachusetts) for a charter as a non-profit organization and to the IRS as a tax-exempt organization.
   On June 25, 1983 Constance Wiliams presided over the first meeting of the New England Hosta Society with about 25 people in attendance. An auction followed the business and social meetings.
   So, you see, Constance Williams has been very important to our society. She may not have hybridized, but she started a good organization which has now grown to 325 members."

         NEHS PRESIDENTS

 Constance Williams 1982-84
 Mabel-Maria Herweg 1984-86
 Robert "Bob" Deane 1986-88
 Phillip Kratsch 1988-90
 Geraldine Anderson 1990-92
 Carol Hull 1992-94
 Barbara Jones 1994-96
 Ernest "Ernie" Flippo 1996-03
 Mary Arnberg and
 Paula Lehtola
2003-05
 John O'Brien 2005-07
 Richard "Rick" Kimball 2007-09
 Chuck and Sue Andersen 2009-

Other notable NEHS members past and present:

Mildred Seaver       Charlie Seaver
William and Eleanor Lachman
Kevin Vaughn         Allan C. Haskell
Bill Burto            Diane Gray Dalton
Glen Williams            Steve Greene
Rick Goodenough          Dave Stone
Kurt Tramposch        Carl Calderara
Elizabeth Nesmith          Roy Herold   

Co-Presidents Sue and Chuck Andersen

NEHS Nursery Members
(past and present)
Piedmont Gardens (closed)
Lexington Gardens (closed)
W. and E. Lachman's (closed)
Weir Meadow - K. Tramposch
Blanchette Gardens
Mason Hollow Nursery
R. Seawright Gardens
Steve Greene's Nursery
O'Brien Nurserymen
Cochato Nursery
Garden Sales - W. Turull
New Hampshire Hostas
Variegated Foliage Nursery
     My first introduction to the New England Hosta Society was in 1991, at another Raleigh, North Carolina national convention. The first night of that convention they hosted a "Pig Pickin'" at the NC State University Arboretum. Not being sure what to do and not knowing ANYONE there, my mother Rita (who we fondly called "Reet") and I stood in line for food. Right in front of us was a  group of  not exactly warm and fuzzy folks from New England.
   Some of the noteworthy group included Roy Herold, Gerry Anderson, Barbara Jones and Bobbi Brenner. Coming late and crashing the line came this boisterous woman with an entourage, who everyone wanted to talk to. We soon learned that woman was Mildred Seaver and quite a celebrity in the hosta world. News to us! I only had a half dozen hosta plants at the time and knew nothing about the "Sea Series" of hostas.
   The group of NEHS'ers in the line seemed to be complete without asking who we were, so, when it came time to find a seat for dinner, there was no room where they were sitting. Reet and I wandered off to a remote area and grabbed a couple spots with another mother/ daughter newbie twosome. Soon we struck up a conversation with them and learned they were from Atlanta, GA. They turned out to be Toni Wright and Judy Burns, and, from that moment, we became lifelong, though long distance friends. Although my mom is no longer alive to join me, I still look for Toni and Judy at every convention and we look back on all the years we have shared for that few days of hosta bliss every year, but I digress.
   After the 1991 convention, I joined my first local society, the New
England Hosta Society. I attended a few meetings, but the two-hour drive was a bit daunting, and when I arrived at meetings there was still that cool reception. 
Convention Co-Chairs
Deborah Myrick & Rick Kimball

   Fast forward two years to the Cedar Rapids, Iowa AHS Convention. Standing in the baggage claim area of the airport, I spotted two NEHS members I recognized, Barbara Jones and Bobbi Brenner. I said hello to theml, but there was little recognition of me. I introduced myself and Reet, and soon they realized I had hotel information that neither of them had brought along. We called for the hotel courtesy van and rode in together. Soon Reet and I were checking, in when lo and behold, the hotel had no reservations for our NEHS friends.
   We offered them a place to park their bags and relax in our room until the hotel could secure a room for them for the convention. We offered them to stay with us, if no rooms came available for them. They ended up not having to stay with us that week, but the offer of friendship that day secured lifelong hosta friends. In fact, because we had been "taken in" by these two wonderful NEHS members we were "in" with all of them from then on! Hostas really are the friendship plant! (smile!)

   Over the years since those early beginnings, I have driven the 2 hours to as many NEHS meetings as I can. Because of that chance bit of shared hardship, I ended up having the privilege of visiting the original home gardens of Mildred Seaver, Bill and Eleanor Lachman, Roy Herold and Bill Burto. Sadly, all of those gardens are no longer there, but I can see each one in my photographs and my memories. I attended NEHS auctions where OS pieces of Seaver, Lachman, Vaughn and Herold plants were up for bid, brought by the originators themselves! I even won some of them! Since those early days I have added many more NEHS friends, who invited me into their gardens and their hearts, even though I am not a New England native. Now, the New England luminaries include Barbara Jones, Steve Greene, Rick Goodenough, Kathie Sisson, Glen Williams, Roger Kinchen, Bill Meyer, Rick Kimball, Paula Lehtola, Mary Arnberg .. . the list goes on.
Paula Lehtola Kevin Vaughn
Mary Arnberg Steve Greene
Barbara Jones John O'Brien
R. Goodenough Ernie Flippo
   The New England Hosta Society was started very early in the history of the AHS. It thrived during the heydays of some of the best known hybridizers of our time - through the late 1980's and early 1990's. Like many societies, it began to lose headway in the late 90's. Ernie Flippo remained president for seven years despite bylaws setting the term at two years, because no one could be found to take over the position. The darkest days came in the early 2000's, when I attended one meeting with only ten people there.
   Then Paula Lehtola and Mary Arnberg arrived like a whirlwind and turned the society around. Meetings were soon packed with excited members and NEHS was reborn! It is enjoying a resurgence of membership and enthusiasm these days and under Paula's leadership decided to take on the challenge of hosting the first ever New England National Convention in 2011.
   Gone are the days of what once seemed a cool and isolated group of New Englanders. Here to stay are friendships warmed by our members' more global participation in online hosta forums and internet auctions.
   We hope you will make your plans soon to come to the 2011 AHS Convention in Massachusetts. Come and meet our great group of friends, see our hosta heritage, our gardens, and glimpse the next hosta horizon here in storied New England. We will welcome you with open arms and hosta friendship!
   Please join all the hosta hullabaloo this summer on June 21-25, 2011. Come get a First Look at us!

At right top to bottom: A mid-90's NEHS meeting at the Lachmans', Charlie and Mildred Seaver with Carol, Bill Burto receiving a hug. 

Below: A group shot of NEHS members at the September '10 meeting. 

Editors Note: Each year the Online Hosta Journal will feature an article about the local society that will host the next year's convention. We feel this gives the membership some background of the society and people they will be meeting when they attend.  

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