Azaleas are arguably the South’s (and some of our customer’s) favorite plant. This week’s blog is brought to us by Patrick Thompson, President Alabamense Chapter of the Azalea Society of America and Arborist and Gardener at Auburn University’s Davis Arboretum…
Landscaping Birmingham AL – Azaleas and the Related Rhododendrons
These are grown worldwide because of their manageable size, ease of care, and of course their flowers. Few trees, shrubs, or herbaceous plants can match the azalea’s ability to cover their entire form with dense flowers. The most common colors are white, pinks, purples, and less often, red.
Sometimes they have gold or yellow spots in their throat. There is a fragrant native species that grows wild across the state known as the Alabama azalea. It has white flowers in April with a yellow blotch so large that it almost covers one of each flower’s five white petals.
Azaleas blooms can also be found in oranges and yellows if you know where to look, but you won’t find those colors on the evergreen azaleas that were made famous by the antebellum gardens of cities like Mobile, Alabama and Charleston, North Carolina. The evergreen azaleas were imported from Asia in the 19th century.
Breeders have been creating new types of azaleas since long before they were shipped to our shores. There are about 1,000 naturally occurring species, and almost 30,000 unique types have been named. Because of our temperate climate and acidic soils, the Southeastern United States is one of the best places in the world to grow them.
New varieties like the Encore Azaleas have kept these plants on the cutting edge of gardening. There are also dwarf varieties, types with spots and stripes on multicolored flowers, and plants with variegated leaves that add interest to gardens throughout the year. The cultivar ‘Millie Mac’ was found in Southwest Alabama and features a white edge on a normally red-orange flower.
One of the most uncommon colors for flowering shrubs in Southern gardens is orange, but along creeks and under pines on the coast and in the mountains, the wild plants sometimes called honeysuckle azaleas bloom in all the common azalea colors as well as oranges, yellows and reds from spring till late summer.
Plant hunters continue to find interesting new varieties of these honeysuckle azaleas and breeders have been hybridizing them to get bigger, brighter flowers for centuries. They rarely survive if dug from the woods, so nurserymen are working to get them into retail centers and in the hands of landscapers so these exciting colors can help fill your bloom calendar in new and exciting ways. For more information on how to find and grow azaleas visit www.Azaleas.org.
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