About Those Azaleas-My Signature Plants

april-22-2008-013-2 Tina of In The Garden wrote a post about signature plants and asked what the blogdom inhabitants considered theirs to be. She assumed mine was the Muhlenbergia capillaris, but that is not my favorite even though it is a beauty. I wrote in a comment to her post that my signature plants are the deciduous azaleas.~Above is Mandarin Lights, I think.january-4-2008-029-2There has been an effort made recently, sort of a new year’s resolution, to list the plants growing in the Fairegarden. A monumental task and possibly impossible, but we are beginning with these leaf dropping azaleas. At last count, and even that took several tries to verify and list, there are 34 of these shrubs growing, 26 different varieties.~Above is a bud from the yellow flowered no ID growing on the slope surrounded by some muhly grass stray hairs, maybe they are fighting over who gets to be the signature.may-6-2008-011-2Most of ours are crosses between the native species and the hybrids. There are 15 East coast US natives. More information about them can be found here.~ Above, Crimson Tide, one of the latest to bloom here.january-1-2009-026-3These Azaleas are in the genus Rhododendron, with evergreen azaleas in the subgenus Tsutsusi and deciduous azaleas in the subgenus Pentanthera. The research done on the internet gives some contradictory information so I will give a very brief overview of the specifics as they are grown here. They enjoy full sun or part shade, acidic soil, good drainage, grow to five feet tall and taller, established plants need no fertilizer, they don’t like to be moved, ideal temperature range zone 6 to 8, but can grow in colder and warmer climates. The *lights* series for northern gardens is described below.~Above is a big fat flower bud in January showing the promise of blooms to come in April and May.april-16-2008-011-2There has been much breeding done with crosses between the natives and the Knap Hill hybrid azaleas which were developed by Anthony Waterer at the Knap Hill Nursery in England near the turn of the century. The Exbury azaleas, derived from the Knap Hills, were developed by Lionel de Rothschild at the Exbury Estate in England. Both of these beautiful azalea hybrid groups as well as their descendants are now generally referred to as Knap Hill or Exbury hybrids in honor of the original hybridizing programs.~Above is the astounding Admiral Semmes, the result of a hybrid cross between a large-flowered Exbury azalea called “Hotspur Yellow” and the native Florida azalea, Rhododendron austrinum.It was introduced by Dodd and Dodd Nurseries in Semmes, Ala., and named after Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes, whose
record of 87 ships sunk or captured remains unbroken today.april-20-2008-016-3The plants growing here have come from various sources. We brought the first two from a nursery in Kingsport, TN where we were living at the time. The two yellow flowered ones that flank the steep steps going up to the knot garden were planted at the back corners of the main house when it was first purchased in 1996 for the offspring Semi and Chickenpoet to live in while attending the nearby college on soccer scholarships. Chickenpoet immediately, against my orders wishes got a puppy from the pound who set about chewing the azaleas to the ground. I was not happy. When we moved here in 2000 and began the renovation, we moved all the plants growing behind the house where the addition would be built with excavation by a back hoe. Amidst the tall weeds were the two azaleas, with spent blooms still showing. Talk about your miracles! The bushes were moved to their place of prominence and have grown and prospered there ever since. You can see them in the last photo of this post.~Above is Arneson Gem. I think. I am guessing on some of these, if not all, for many are similar and without seeing the location of the bush, it is difficult to be certain.april-25-2008-080-2Local plant sales by garden societies have given us some of the native species. Big box stores are a cheaper source and they usually offer budded specimens in late winter. The best survival rate is to plant before the heat and drought of summer comes, although we have successfully planted some as late as mid May and even late June, but it is not recommended.~Above is Mandarin Lights. This is one of the Northern Lights Series of hybrid azaleas. This is a series of hybrid azaleas being developed and released by the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Any azalea released and included in this series will have flower bud hardiness of -30 degrees to -45 degrees F to withstand Minnesota winters. As the azalea breeding program continues, new selections will become available and will be denoted by a cultivar name that includes “lights”.january-4-2008-040-3One of the joys of the winter garden is being able to see the large buds on the bare stems. ~april-22-2008-051-2As the buds swell and the colors become apparent, excitement grows.~Above is Primrose.november-14-2008-macro-124-2While the blooms are legendary, the fall foliage color is another asset.~Above is again Primrose, this time in November.april-20-2008-028-2Sometimes the bud color is different than the flower. Even in bud, the display is jaw dropping.~Above is Arneson Gem.november-4-2008-040-2Admiral Semmes in November gives a better view of the fall display.~april-16-2008-053-2Not sure what this one is.~june-29-2008-045-2The latest bloomer here, bought last year at the Bloom Day festival in late June at the University of Tennessee trial gardens is the native R. prunifolium. Rhododendron prunifolium, the Plum Leaf Azalea, is one of the latest native azaleas to bloom. The orange to vivid red flowers open in late summer and measure 1.5 to nearly 2 inches across. Flower buds for the next season are usually formed before the current season’s blossoms open.
First collected by R.M. Harper in 1913, R. prunifolium has a very small natural distribution in southwestern Georgia and eastern Alabama.
~january-4-2008-039-2In January, when we are feeling a little down due to the lack of blossoms in the garden, we take cheer in seeing so many buds holding the promise of the future. The background hedge of ChamaecyparisΒ pisifera Β ‘Gold Mops’, or any taller evergreen, is the perfect curtain for the fireworks display to come.~november-14-2008-macro-120-2Four season interest is offered by these unique and seldom grown visions of exquisiteness. Winter buds on graceful branches, flowers like nothing else on earth, and fresh fuzzy green leaves turning to shades of crimson in fall offer something to be appreciated every day of the year.~may-2-2008-005-2The term paper length of this post is to get the word out to the gardening public to give these shrubs a try. Many good nurseries offer several varieties. Remember that any with *lights* or Northern lights in the name will be much hardier than others.~Above from left, Admiral Semmes, Mandarin Lights, Primrose, Crimson Tide, White Throat, Arneson Gem and the smaller orange in front is Gibralter. These are the ones that can be captured in one photo. Next spring more long shots of the groupings will be shown. april-25-2008-027-3Mid spring here is a sea of pink punctuated by blue and white. The jumping jack flash of the yellow azaleas adds just the right touch. In the above photo are the first plantings here of this shrub that were given up for dead after being chewed to nubs by a teething puppy.~While buying these potted and blooming is the best way to know exactly what you are getting, Forestfarm Nursery is a good mail order source. Do watch for them at your local big box store arriving in bud. Even one gallon sized plants can bloom the first year planted out, just look for those fat juicy buds.
Plants I Grow-Deciduous Azaleas

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54 Responses to About Those Azaleas-My Signature Plants

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Oh my gosh Frances. I would love to see your garden abloom during its spring show of azaleas. I just love these shrubs but I can’t seem to grow them here. I will just have to enjoy them vicariously through your pictures.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. I will try to take more long shots of the azaleas in bloom, as well as other long shots this year. I had just discovered that macro feature last year and went crazy with it. When looking at the photos, I can’t tell which is what without some kind of landmark, not just the gold mops hedge for that is fifty feet long. It seems like the northern lights series would be perfect for your garden. I have found that these need lots of water the first year, like so many things that are drought tolerant, like the heathers. I have killed more than I would like to admit, and offspring Semi seems to have killed all of hers without that extra diligent and regular watering the first or even second year.

  2. Randy says:

    Oh Frances… So many beautiful plants so little space. What’s a gardener like me to do? I’m sure I can squeeze in a few.

    Hi Randy, you need to be growing Admiral Semmes, for it has native genes to your area. Even one can make a big impact during April and May, maybe earlier in your neck of the woods. Good luck with it!

  3. Frances,
    The Musician and I are sitting here drooling over your stunning native azaleas. We adore those (he has a forestry degree) and we would love to plant our woodlands with them if we could fence out the deer.

    At a previous home in the woods, there was a native growing wild along my creek.

    I’ve seen great companions of columbine planted at the feet of natives to coordinate with the colors of the blooms.

    I fully understand why you say the native azalea is your favorite. Just Heavenly at Faire Garden.


    Hi Cameron, thanks. Oh lucky you to have a native growing wild, we have them in the country woodlands here too. But I am not a native only gal, and welcome the larger flowers of the hybrids. The newer lights series are great even in our warmer clime too. Thanks for the idea about the columbines, that combo is alive and well under ferngully but the seeds could be scattered under the shade of some of the larger bushes in the sun too. I have to stop buying new ones, for we are running out of room, but I know that there will be more added anyway, I cannot resist them and will dig other things out to make room! πŸ™‚

  4. Sylvia (England) says:

    Beautiful Frances, Oh! I wish I could grow them but our soil is neutral. Camillas I can grow so its not so bad. Where I work I look over some gardens with beautiful Azaleas and Rhododendrons. This year I hope to get to Exbury Gardens, not far from us, in April but I said that last year!

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, Oh to be able to see the gardens in England, a life long dream of mine. One of these days I will. In the meantime, please do go the Exbury when the azaleas are blooming and let me know when you have photos to show!!!!! If you can grow Camellias I would think these azaleas would grow there too, and with Exbury nearby, maybe you want to give them a try! BTW, I have located the iris, unc at Plant Delights Nursery. Pricey, but I might splurge!

  5. Gail says:

    Frances, I am overwhelmed with the beauty of your signature plants. Really wonderful! Such garden envy this gardener is feeling;) I had no idea there were so many of them at Fairegarden! I have to be sure to plan a visit there this spring! ~~ They would look lovely in the GOBN, maybe I can make the soil acidic in afew spots…it would be so worth it! I have tried growing the natives before and so have several of my friends. They just decline away… I ripped the last twig out last spring! Maybe they just want to be closer to the mountains and real acidic soil! Gail

    Hi Gail, thanks so much. Do come late April for the best show. I have found the natives to be much more difficult to grow, I have killed several, and don’t know why. The lights series are the most widely available and are the toughest, I would suggest them for your back, they need sun to bloom best however. Near your patio would be perfect and they can be underplanted with great success too.

  6. Marnie says:

    Those of gorgeous photos. I especially love the last one–so much color and texture. Unfortunately, azaleas don’t do well in our alkaline soil. I have some friends who try and grow them. They remain very small and bloom sparsely. They certainly are lovely in their native area.

    Hi Marnie, thanks. We have some trouble with the evergreen azaleas too, but I have blamed the drought. Since the exburys grow in England with notoriously alkaline soil, maybe you could try the lights series. My evergreen azaleas are growing more sparse each year while the deciduous ones are thriving, it may be that native toughness. πŸ™‚

  7. Dave says:

    Very impressive! That last picture of your slope should be in a magazine somewhere. After reading this post I have determined that we need more azaleas. (We only have two anyway!) Great information!

    Hi Dave, thanks for that. I need to work on the quality of the long shots though, this year’s will be better. You should be able to find some next month or the next at the big box stores.

  8. Joy says:

    Hello Frances .. lots of great information and beautiful pictures !
    The one and only Azalea I have Is Mandarin Lights from the Northern Lights series : )
    But .. I have had problems trying to get it to bloom in the last 2 years .. I have had it over 7 years .. I amend the soil so it is acidic .. compost .. the right light values etc .. so I don’t know what is wrong and I am getting frustrated .. any ideas are most welcome !

    Hi Joy, thanks. As for your Mandarin Lights, besides enough sun, your soil may be too rich, no more compost! They like it lean, which my soil is naturally. I really don’t know how you take away nutrients, but do stop adding them. πŸ™‚

  9. linda says:

    Wonderful eye candy Frances!

    Hi Linda, thanks, so glad you enjoyed it!

  10. tina says:

    Such an awesome signature plant and I will forever think of you with the deciduous azaleas! and muhly too:) Thanks for the link love and I have added you in. I have just three of these (Florida Flame) and love them. They are in the woodland garden and do fine with no help from me. Much better than those silly hybrid evergreen azaleas that don’t like it here (at least not in my garden). HA! And you know those kids and parent’s wishes! What is it with puppies and dogs that just want to chew azaleas and rhodies? I think the two you rescued were fate and what a great choice for a signature plant. Awesome!!! And I bet now everyone will be buying these up left and right-I know I am on the lookout for them too! Take care you colorful azalea you!☻

    Hi Tina, thanks, so glad you approved of my addition to your good idea! The evergreen azaleas are not doing well here either, especially compared to the deciduous ones. I have a couple that are good though, Pride of Mobile is the best pink and Mrs. G. G. Gebring the best white, they may have some nice southern genes in their make up.

  11. commonweeder says:

    Frances, I can almost imagine what your garden looks like in azalea season because I have a friend who has about 300 rhodies, and 60 deciduous azaleas. His garden puts on quite a show. He inspired me and I now have a couple of rhododendrons and my first deciduous azalea. My own signature plant is the hardy rose,which includes old fashioned roses, rugosas, Canadien Explorers and last year, three red Double Knock-Outs. We’ll see how those last come through the winter. There are about 70 roses and we celebrate the last Sunday in June with the Annual Rose Viewing. Lots of deciduous peonies are in bloom then too.

    Hi Pat, that sounds like an amazing garden your friend has. I am with you on the old roses too, our rugosa, Thorny, Grootendorst Supreme is the most carefeee rose we grow, including the Knockouts. The Annual Rose Viewing sounds a delight. Do take photos!

  12. Kathleen says:

    A terrific signature plant for you Frances. I can’t wait to see the spring display, it has to be phenomenal. I haven’t had azaleas in my garden since leaving the east coast for the west. Our soils are alkaline and I’m always very skeptical that they’ll ever bloom, no matter what the tags say… I think for now, I’ll just enjoy your photos and lust after them from afar. Very soon those fat buds will be bursting forth with color. I can’t wait!

    Hi Kathleen, thanks. I can’t wait either, so hope we don’t have some weird weather attack that ruins it, always possible here, you know. We did have a front yard full of azaleas, under Canary Island Pines in Orange County, with irrigation of course. That was more than twenty years ago, I would not plant that sort of thing there now.

  13. TC says:

    Fantastic “term paper length” article/post/informative essay Ms. Frances! Azaleas are ubiquitous here, by here I mean zone 5, not specifically in my landscape, although I’d love to add more. I have one maroon red unnamed variety that is stunning in spring.

    Hi TC, thanks. Are you talking about the deciduous azaleas being ubiquitous? Or the evergreen ones? I remember PA as being land of the rhododendrons, they were in every foundation planting and did quite well there. We have a couple, or one out of the many we planted in the beginning here. I have given up on them and switched to the deciduous azaleas for the height and flower trusses, which are similar to the big rhodies.

  14. Okay, Frances, your dazzling sales pitch worked! Your photos and notes have pushed me over the edge (and my husband, as an Asheville, NC guy) was already there. P.S. Will be telling all the cousins about The Hop. Sorry we missed that on our trip in June. Where is it in town?

    Hi DaffodilPlanter, thanks and great! About the azaleas and about The Hop, we need all the customers we can get, especially during the slower winter months! It is on Merrimon, a couple of miles from the 240 loop, away from town. That is the best I can do, not living there are being that familiar with the streets myself. The address is on my sidebar, 640 Merrimon Ave. Do tell all about it, please. πŸ™‚

  15. Philip says:

    Hi Frances!
    Looking at your deciduous azaleas is so cheery on a foggy morning. Although not azaleas, I have always wanted to visit Sikkim in the Himalaya to see the Rhododendron forests. I have not been to Exbury, but I believe I saw a garden show on television once that described that garden.It looked spectacular, as does your garden! We do not have any azaleas, but Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’ is about to bloom. I have not had that much luck with the evergreen variety of azalea, but your post has me thinking about trying one of the deciduous varieties you show here.I love the look of “Arneson Gem”

    Hi Philip, thanks, I am so glad to have cheered you. The places you name do sound like perfect spots for garden lovers to visit. I do hope to get to England someday and visit as many gardens as humanly possible. Anything with the name ‘Fragrantissiumum’ must be out of this world to the olfactory sense! Arneson Gem is a great one, the color of the buds is dark red, but the flowers open to a yellow orange pink mix, a real gem of a plant! πŸ™‚

  16. patsi says:

    Your knowledge and varieties of azaleas are overwhelming. Pretty sight for this gloomy day.

    Hi Patsi, thanks, but most of those facts came from internet sites, not the top of my head! πŸ™‚ I can take credit for the photos of the flowers from last spring though. When I need a cheer me up, that will do it every time!

  17. chickenpoet says:

    Chickenpoet, the collector of pets
    The controversy of my existence
    But Kansas, the culprit of the azaleas
    Was not blessed with “Azalea Resistance”
    Survive they did; a strength that Kansas did not possess
    But my memory of crooked teeth and her heart of gold
    Will stay with me until my eternal rest.

    Those are gorgeous. Add them to my list (any).

    Much Love, CP

    Hello my dear Chickenpoet, it does seem some things will never change. We will keep your request in mind when they arrive at the big box store. πŸ™‚
    Love, Frances

  18. Barbara says:

    A feast of corals, pinks and orange – and what a fantastical splash of yellow. While the prices are best at our big box stores – it’s worthwhile for us Zone 5 folks up north to buy those plants that have been grown further north. Because of the length of time they take from whip to finish in the colder climate – they often are more expensive, but you have a better chance of getting bloom year after year.

    Hi Barbara, welcome back, we missed you! I have to agree with you about buying the larger specimens, although I have lost some of those too. It hurts because they are so much more pricey. My most expensive one was Admiral Semmes, in a five gallon pot from a nice nursery. It was huge when I bought it many years ago and is by far the largest and fullest one even now. It also has the most blooms, but that might be the variety. I should look for more of those confederate series, they are great for my area. Love your maple with the snow shot!

  19. easygardener says:

    What beautiful rich colours. I would love to grow them but my soil isn’t suitable. I have to console myself with spring visits to gardens that can show them in all their glory.

    Hi EG, thanks. I guess we all have things we can admire in the gardens of others which we ourselves cannot grow, like your snowdrops for me. I do love your winter blooms though.

  20. Frances, I so very much enjoyed this tour of azaleas. And isn’t it so Southern which I am through and through. Again, the comments are just as fun as the post. It makes me feel like the gardening world is the best there is…wouldn’t you agree?

    I like the orange pinkish azaleas best. I admire you trying to get a handle on all the things growing. That’s a lot of disciplined research. Every plant has a story of where you bought it, how it was named, and what it has done since you planted it. I’m sure that will keep you busy for centuries. I want your book when you are done.

    I would buy this book in a heartbeat if I saw it on a shelf. And the best of all…I would buy extra copies and give them to friends.

    Tip from me…don’t spill your seeds;)

    Hi Anna, thanks. These azaleas do well here, but the lights series will see them grown with success all the way to Minnesota, a very good thing. And yes, I certainly agree the garden bloggers are the nicest group ever. As for the lists, so far I am just trying to get the names right. In the future a photo would be good too. My journals contain entries for when and where I bought most things, but sometimes I forget to write it down, or for the older things, just didn’t pay that close attention. There are only so many hours in the day! Thanks for that about a book, sigh. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but it is a nice dream. Spilling seeds? I actually have done that several times, and they grow where they were spilled!

  21. Racquel says:

    Now I understand why the Azalea is your signature plant. You have a wonderful variety of them in your garden. I love the yellow flowering ones. Your garden must be spectacular in the spring when they bloom.

    Hi Racquel, thanks so much. I love the yellow ones too, something different from the regular azaleas and rhodies. Spring is the highlight of the gardening year here, late April showing the most color, with those fresh young leaves on trees and shrubs too and the bulbs still hanging in. It is my favorite time.

  22. Phillip says:

    What a great post for a cold day. I don’t know why I don’t grow more azaleas. I had the Plum Leaf but it died. I have the Piedmont azalea and it is always beautiful. I love the Mandarin Lights and Admiral Semmes.

    Hi Phillip, thanks. I had a plum leaf at my other TN garden and it died there too. I have given this one extra water since it was planted in late June in the midst of drought conditions. I really thing the yellow Admiral would set off your roses nicely. πŸ™‚

  23. Rose says:

    Frances, this “term paper” gets an A from me:) Detailed, clear explanations, and a very effective conclusion–your last photo looks like a Monet painting! I am drooling over all these lovely plants.
    Thank you for all the great information, too; I really didn’t think I could grow azaleas here, but the Northern Lights series sounds like a winner. I’m going to be looking for them in the garden centers this spring.
    Minnesota also created the “Endless Summer” hydrangea, one of the first shade perennials I bought. It’s done relatively well here, since our Illinois winters aren’t quite as severe as Minnesota’s.

    Gee Ms. Rose, thanks for the A! I know you are a tough grader too. πŸ™‚ Those folks in Minnesota are really doing the gardening world a great service with their breeding program, but Endless Summer came from Michael Dirr’s discovery in Georgia of a hydrangea found to bloom on new growth from the old cultivar Nikko Blue. I have had the Nikko do that on occasion here, but have had terrible trouble with the Endless Summer due to our drought. Dirr sent the cuttings to Minnesota to carry on the propagation. One story has it that the new wood bloomer was found in former UGA football coach Vince Dooley’s garden and was originally named Dooley. I have that plant. The name was changed to make it more attractive to the buying public! HA

    Do try the lights series, Rose, they should work well for you!


  24. Siria says:

    Hi Frances! Azaleas are so beautiful, but the photographs from your garden are breathtaking! I hope you post lots of pictures of them this Spring.
    One of the best trips I have ever had the fortune of taking was with my girlfriends to England in the Spring of 1999. We spent one day in London at the Chelsea Flower Show and the remainder of the trip was in the Cotswolds and in the southern part of England touring gardens and antiquing. We didn’t make it far south enough to go to Exbury Gardens, but the gardens we saw were fabulous! This was before the days of digital cameras and I think I shot 18 rolls of film. A trip of a lifetime and one I will never forget! My wonderful husband encouraged me to go and he stayed home with the 3 kids. I highly recommend a trip like this!

    Hi Siria, thanks. I will certainly try to post some long shots of the azaleas as they appear in the garden, along with everything else. The macro shots are so easy and look so good on the blog, I must fight that impulse and show the garden as it looks to me in reality. That’s the trouble, the macro shots are so much prettier, the long shots depend on the perfect light and take much more time to set up. Worth the effort though.

    Your trip to England sounds like a dream come true. Imagine how many photos could be taken with the digital camera. The Financier got me a 2 gig card as a stocking stuffer, a few of those might be enough to take all the pictures I would want to. πŸ™‚ Someday.


  25. Jean says:

    Great information Frances. I have never seen deciduous azaleas at my big box store (and I think they’re mighty scarce at our one nursery). But I’m still hopeful. While each is beautiful, taken together they are absolutely gorgeous. You must be in heaven come spring. Good for you!

    Hi Jean, thanks. Start checking for them soon, they are one of the first things to come in, and look like sticks. I have never seen them in the big box stores in bloom, they have all been bought by then, they come late winter and are easily missed. Look for bare sticks with big fat buds, sometimes with the rhododendrons. Spring is a magical time here.

  26. WOW, You are so good to take closeup fotos, they are just wonderful.
    We have just started to be intrested of Rhododendron and we have some Azaleas.
    Your text and your fotos makes me to whant more of them.
    The bud looks so promeses for the spring.

    Hi Ken and Carina, thanks so much. Some flowers are really photogenic, and the azaleas are among the best for that. Your beautiful garden would be the perfect spot for some of these.

  27. Hi Frances I was just about to ask you the name of your wonderful grass and you read my mind, Muhlenbergis capillaris yes? Can you recommend another? I cannot think of a more lovely way to start the day than to walk through your garden on a guided Azelea tour. It was wonderful, thank you Frances. xoxo Tyra

    Hi Tyra, yes the pink grass is Muhlenbergia capillaris. Others I love are the Japanese blood grass, Imperator cylindrica, Stipa tenuissima and Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, among others. I am planning a post about grasses sometime in the future. Thank you for coming along on the tour! πŸ™‚

  28. gittan says:

    Oh, it looks great! We only have one single Azalea in our garden. It’s my husband who adores them I am more of a Maple and daylily lover =P gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks. All good plants that you and your husband love. They can all be included and grow well together. πŸ™‚

  29. How nice to be introduced to so many of your signature plants. They look great! I love Azaleas too but unfortunately cannot grow them in my garden as I do not have the right soil for them. But I have one in a pot outside and I treat myself to a few indoor azalea’s too every year. πŸ˜‰

    A Blissful 2009 to you and yours, Frances.

    BTW yours pics are all great but my favourite is the last one, what a beautiful part of your garden that is. I’m green with envy, fortunately green suits me. πŸ˜‰

    Hi YE, so nice to see you, thanks for stopping by. I have a photo of an allee of deciuous azaleas, pink and yellow, in bloom in giant pots in Prince Charles’ garden, what a vision! They do look fabulous is pots. May you and the Bliss team have the best year ever in 2009!

  30. layanee says:

    On a gray winter’s day what better to see than these shots and read about your Rhodies! Must get more….

    Hi Layanee, thanks. Your ice shots were wonderful too, if a little chilling! Where is that sweater!

  31. Monica says:

    Azaleas are indeed gorgeous. I love too many plants to have to narrow it down, I’m afraid.

    Hi Monica, thanks. I know what you mean, but these have always been my favorites. When we bought our first TN house in 1988, there were two large deciduous azaleas growing on the outside of the fence surrounding the swimming pool, an orange, Gibralter probably and a pink that was smaller but still taller than I was. It was love at first sight.

  32. Pam/Digging says:

    What glory is displayed in your mid-spring garden, Frances. You’ve made great use of your slope. Out of curiosity, when do you think your garden is prettier: spring or fall?

    Hi Pam thanks so much. I am not sure now if I would know how to garden on a flat space. As for when the garden in the prettiest, at first I would say spring, but when fall rolls around and the dogwoods are red, the japanese maples are red, the muhly is in full bloom, well it would have to be a tie! I love whatever season we are in at the moment, for the changes are what makes the garden more interesting, instead of looking the same all the time, to me anyway. πŸ™‚ Thanks for asking and making me think about it.

  33. LindaLunda says:

    Like fireworks!!!

    Hi Linda, thanks, the orangey ones are really like fireworks! And I do love your new viking ship birdbath, you have outdone yourself this time! πŸ™‚

  34. Genevieve says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous photos!

    My signature plant would probably be Salvia leucantha, the purple Mexican Bush Sage. I just love their fuzzy purple – are they bracts or what? – and the little white flowers that the hummingbirds drink from.

    Hi Genevieve, thanks so much. I love that salvia too, but it is not hardy here, although we are trying to winter it over at the moment with a pile of grass clippings around the base. The fuzzy purple are like velvet, whatever they are! πŸ™‚

  35. VW says:

    So beautiful! Thanks Frances for another great post. The soil in Spokane isn’t acidic enough for rhododendrons and azaleas, but people plant them anyway. The leaves are usually pale yellow and drooping, but the flowers are lovely. It’s nice to see some healthy versions in your yard! Regards, VW

    Hi VW, thanks and welcome. That is too bad about the yellow leaves, chlorosis, right? We cannot grow the broad leaf rhododendrons here anymore, but we used to be able to. The heat and drought have taken their toll, but the deciduous natives are still doing well, thank goodness. I would be so sad without them. πŸ™‚

  36. VP says:

    Hi Frances – I would have gone for Muhly grass for you too, but then our blogging buddydom started after the Azalea season, so I’ve not had the chance to see how much you love them yet. Unfortunately my garden’s on a limy soil, so I’ve only got a couple of Azaleas in post. However, a picture of one of the pots is my screensaver, so I see their vivid blooms every day πŸ™‚

    Hi VP, thanks for stopping by. There are many who didn’t start reading my blog until after the azalea show was over, and I didn’t even post that many photos of them then. I was waiting to do a plant portrait post and kind of forgot about the photos I had filed until recently. Mid winter seems a good time to show brightly colored flowers to cheer people up, including me! Since you have that type of photo as your screen saver you must know of what I speak! Have you ever seen photos of the large ones growing in Prince Charles’ garden? They are otherworldly! πŸ™‚

  37. Frances, these lovely azaleas do seem more suited to be your signature plant than the grass…it’s beautiful, too – but in a monochromatic way. You’re not exactly monochromatic!

    All our houses have been where the soil is alkaline, and I know very little about azaleas and/or rhododendrons but bet this comprehensive and informative post is being printed out and bookmarked for reference by gardeners with the right soil.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Hi sweet Annie, thanks for that compliment! We are lucky with our soil and what we can grow here. The broad leaf evergreen rhododendrons have all died, they did so well in my other TN garden, you couldn’t go wrong planting them there, not so here, we are a zone warmer. I am working on viburnums for berries and the hollies all do well here too. But for those knock your socks off flower trusses, the deciduous azaleas are my pick. I like the colors all mixed up too, sort of like my personality, a real mishmash! πŸ™‚

  38. joey says:

    Beautiful Frances … I’m an azalea fan also … Love em’ love em’! Have many dancing through my garden ~ lost 2 of my exbury last year 😦 but looking forward to replacement πŸ™‚

    Hi Joey, thanks. I am sorry you lost two of those, but it does give you the chance to get new ones. They are coming out with new crosses that seem better than the older models! πŸ™‚

  39. Lythrum says:

    I *love* that Mandarin Lights azalea…I must have one!! My azalea doesn’t seem to be doing very good though, why do we always want the things that we have problems with? I guess it’s the love of a challenge. πŸ™‚

    Hi Lythrum, thanks. The deciduous azaleas are not the same as the evergreen ones, since they have the genes of the natives of our area in their make up. Do try the Confederate series, it was bred to grow where you live!

  40. Lola says:

    Love, love, love those azaleas. I have some here on the East side of my house that are way over my head. I’ve tried to keep them pruned but not doing a good job since broken leg/hip. I really like the wild orange ones. I had one in N.C. They are so pretty–all colors.

    Hi Lola, thanks. The deciduous azaleas do not need any pruning at all, so save your efforts! πŸ™‚

  41. Anne says:

    Hi Frances! Well, i’ve never been fond of azaleas but your post has given me an appreciation of them I wouldn’t have thought possible. The Mandarin Lights is exquisite! Out here azaleas tend to be troublesome, but its a joy to see them thriving in your garden.

    Hi Anne, thanks for visiting. I am not sure the deciduous azaleas would work in your area, but appreciate your admiration for them here where they are native. But of course you have so many wonderful plants that will grow there that we cannot grow, and I love them also!

    I have changed your link and think that is a better name. This is a family show after all, but the other name was quite clever. πŸ™‚

  42. Rusty says:

    Some day I want to be able to take pictures like you; simply magnificent.
    I love azaleas too, but for some reason they don’t do well in the South Florida soil

    Hi Rusty, thanks for those sweet words. It helps to have beautiful photogenic flowers like these azaleas pose for the camera. πŸ™‚ One of the most used breeding natives is the Florida azalea, R. austrinum, will that grow in your area? I see it is native to the panhandle.

  43. jodi says:

    I think azaleas make the perfect signature plant for you, Frances. They’re easy going, blend in well with everything for a great deal of the year, and then suddenly, pow! Floral fireworks galore! Yours are gorgeous and make me long for spring (the first admission of that so far this year.)

    Oh Jodi, I am so very glad to see you visiting, thanks so much for dropping by! Your sweet comment warms my heart. I hope you are staying warm with all that snow and wind outside, but know you are being taken well care of by the cat crew! Our spring will come soon, the bulbs are showing and the buds are swelling already. Your spring will come later, but will be all the more welcome for the waiting game it plays with you. And you will feel better and be able to get out there in it when more time has passed under the bridge.

  44. Breathtaking! I love how your blog design punctuates your photos. You are an artist.

    Hi Shirley, wow, what a high compliment! I thank you! πŸ™‚

  45. blossom says:

    Wow … I would love to have a garden as lovely as yours. Such beauty. Your pictures are lovely, too!

    Hi Blossom, thanks and welcome. I am so glad you enjoyed this post, it was a labor of love, just like the garden!

  46. carolyngail says:

    Roll tide, roll ! Love that ‘Crimson Tide’ azalea, Frances.

    I’m a big fan of azaleas as well but only the hardiest ones will survive our Chicago winters. ‘Karen ‘ a Gable hybrid of Japanese, Korean and American azaleas is not only one of the most beautiful but hardiest as well.

    Your garden looks amazing. I’m still carrying the images in my mind of my February 08 trip through your beautiful Tennessee hills.

    Hi Carolyn Gail, thanks, so nice to see you. Will you be going to Florida again for the winter? If so, do stop by and visit the Fairegarden! Karen sounds like a beauty! Good deal on finding one that does well there. The Lights series claim to survive in Minnesota so might last there also.


  47. Hi Frances~
    This is an impressive collection of Azaleas! I visited a garden in the UK, I think it was the RHS Wisley garden, where they had acres and acres of azaleas and rhododendrons.Have you been to that garden? I think you would be in heaven! Check it out some day.

    It’s always enjoyable to visit your blog.

    Hi Karrita, thanks so much. I have never been to the UK, but will someday, I promise you! Wisely sounds like a place I would love to see, among many. I will have to start making a list of places that must be visited!


  48. catmint says:

    Hi Frances, what a wonderful collection of azaleas. What strikes me is how different they all are. My very favourite photo is the last one with the soft spring colours, it reminds me of a post impressionistic painting. Azalea is a great signature plant choice, comes from China I think but so adaptable that it obviously grows all over the world except in the tropics. They’re very popular and tough and happy here in Melbourne and once established in a spot they like, don’t seem to need extra water.
    Cheers, Catmint

    Hi Catmint, thanks. The deciduous azaleas are native to our area in the Southeast US. They are doing much better than the asian evergreen types here too. I do hope to get some better long shots of them in the garden setting this year. I am so glad you can grow them where you live also.

  49. andrΓ© says:

    Wow, those azaleas are lovely! And this, by the way, goes for the entire Faire Garden! πŸ™‚ After reading this post I really hope spring will arrive soon…

    Hi Andre, thanks so much for those kind words. We are ready for spring flowers, but it seems they are not quite ready to appear. Soon, as you say, soon…

  50. Carl says:

    I own a couple of the Orange Mandarin Lights exactly like the ones you have pictured within. Problem is I cant find them locally anymore in West Virginia and I’d like to add more to my landscape. I would buy them mail order if I just knew who carried them and who ships them. Can you put me in the right direction? Thank You, Carl

    Hi Carl, I have only ever seen them at Lowe’s, where I got both of mine. πŸ™‚

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  52. Azalea says:

    My name is Azalea!

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