The azaleas are in full peak bloom. These are not the evergreen exotics from Asia, however. These are natives and hybrids from those natives that flourish in the southeastern United States, where we live. The collection is a mix of species and named hybrids including three Aromis, one Confederate, several Lights and some of the older English Knap Hills (Exburys). The Knap Hill group was originated in England with Anthony Waterer about 1870. This group was further developed by Knap Hill Nursery (Waterer), Goldsworth old Nursery (Slocock), and Exbury (Rothschild), from which the name Exbury was incorporated. These azaleas are hybrids of R. molle, R. calendulaceum, R. occidentale, and R. arborescens.
In the United States there have been wonderful crosses made in the effort to distill winter hardiness of the flower buds by the folks in Minnesota. The Northern Lights Series of azaleas 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 the name “Lights”.
The Confederate Series of deciduous azaleas was introduced by Dodd & Dodd Nurseries, Semmes, Alabama. An excellent large-flowered Exbury Azalea was crossed with the heat-tolerant, native Florida Azalea, R. austrinum, and the results are large-flowered, fragrant, heat tolerant cultivars. The Aromi azalea hybrids were created in Mobile, Alabama by Dr. Gene Aromi, a retired education professor at the University of Southern Alabama, and his wife Jane, a retired elementary school teacher. In 1971 they began hybridizing Exbury azaleas with southern native species to create heat tolerant, large flowered, fragrant deciduous azaleas. Do give those appropriate for your climate a try, you won’t be sorry.
In the continuing effort to catalog the plants growing in the Fairegarden, a daunting but worthwhile endeavor, may we present the spring flowering deciduous azaleas, Rhododendron-‘as follows’:
aromi ‘High Tide’
Mt. Saint Helen’s
Rennie-might be Renne
aromi ‘Pink Carousel’
Canescens-growing in sun
Canescens-growing in shade
Alabamense-photo from 2009, did not bloom 2010
There are two cultivars, Orchid Lights and King Red with no photos as yet. Better luck next year. There are a couple of summer blooming varieties that will be added later on. All of these photos and the list of names can be found on the page listed on the sidebar titled Plants We Grow-Deciduous Azaleas.
For a little more back story on some of the azaleas growing here, view the post written naming them as our signature plants by clicking here-About Those Azaleas-My Signature Plants.