Connor Ryan, MS

Rhododendron Collections Manager

Rhododendron Breeding


  • M.S. | University of Georgia
  • B.S. | Auburn University

Research Interests

As the Rhododendron Collections Manager at Holden Forests & Gardens (HF&G), my job is to curate the Rhododendron collection across HF&G. Rhododendron consists of roughly 1,000 total species and 30,000 man-made selections. Most of these plants do not thrive in our cold winters and hot summers, so it is a fun challenge to find the right sites and plants for our collection. In addition to its horticultural prowess, Rhododendron is a ripe group of plants for scientific study due to its immense, global diversity and evolutionary history. Many species are also at risk of extinction in the wild, so we are beginning to work with the Global Conservation Consortium for Rhododendron to conserve these plants globally. During the growing season, I am most frequently found at the David G. Leach Research Station, a 30-acre facility originally focused on Rhododendron breeding, evaluation, and display in Madison, Ohio. There I lead our rhododendron and azalea breeding program to create new garden plants with improved ornamental and adaptive traits. The soils at the research station are sandy, providing the moist, well-drained conditions in which rhododendrons thrive. This presents an exciting opportunity to build a world class collection of wild-occurring rhododendrons in addition to the world class horticultural collection already there.


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