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February 10, 1997

Director of UCSC Arboretum receives major horticultural award

By Stephen McCabe and Robert Irion

[Photo of Ray Collett] Professor Ray T. Collett, director of the UCSC Arboretum, received the California Horticultural Society Annual Award in San Francisco on February 3. Collett was honored for his lifelong contributions to California horticulture, including establishing the Arboretum, introducing new plants to California gardens, and breeding new forms of popular plants.

Collett, who came to UCSC in 1965, is one of the campus's original faculty members. As the Arboretum's founding director, he has overseen the conversion of about 130 acres of rough pastures into a leading horticultural site. The Arboretum is renowned for its collections of Australian and New Zealand plants--the most extensive such collections outside of their native countries. The gardens also contain the largest collection of South African protea relatives outside of South Africa and one of the largest collections of conifer genera in the world.

Collett is credited with popularizing the Australian "blue" hibiscus in California, in part through the development of a superior, dark purple compact form known as Alyogyne huegelii 'Swan River,' a.k.a. 'Monterey Bay.' This variety is so popular that cultivators in Australia now grow Collett's selection as well. Another successful selection is a particular California fuchsia, Epilobium (Zauschneria) 'Hurricane Point,' that was collected as a cutting before the portion of Hurricane Point containing the parent plant slipped into the Pacific Ocean along Big Sur. Collett's most recent introductions are Correa 'Dawn in Santa Cruz' (now being taken to England), Correa 'Sister Dawn,' and Mimulus 'Ray's Yellow.'

Even before the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, Collett worked on drought-tolerant plants that have now become part of the California landscape. Several of the 109 "Best New Plants" for the latest edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book are grevilleas and other species selected or introduced by the UCSC Arboretum. Fremontia, the journal of the California Native Plant Society, often mentions Arboretum selections of California natives introduced during Collett's tenure.

Among the other widespread plants popularized or introduced by the Arboretum are Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon,' Scaevola 'Mauve Clusters,' South African proteas, and pincushion proteas. In addition to plants suitable for landscaping, Collett has been instrumental in introducing many new species useful to the cut-flower industry. Going against an economic trend, some types of plants formerly imported on a large scale can now be grown in California, thanks largely to the efforts of Collett and the Arboretum.

The California Horticultural Society produces a newsletter and a widely respected magazine, Pacific Horticulture, for which Collett has written several articles. The society was founded in 1933 and has 650 members.

The Arboretum is located on Empire Grade in Santa Cruz between the east and west entrances to the UCSC campus. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Norrie's Gifts at the Arboretum is open for plant, book, and gift sales on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.

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