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Wild Azalea Hills



From left to right: Rododendrons and Azalea hills overlooking the South River and Bald cypress; R. 'scintillation'; R. 'County of York'


The Rhododendrons of London Town are looking spectacular this bloom season! May is marvelous in the gardens, between Tree Peonies, ephemerals, Camellias (yes! they are still in bloom) and Rhododendrons, there isn't a path without a blossom gleaming down the swales and hills. The wild Azalea hills though, are the most radiant in May. None of the pictures do any justice to the spectacular 2022 bloom season.


Did you know that all Azaleas are Rhododendrons but not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas? In the 'Wild Azalea Hills...series# 1' let's look at the Rhododendrons of London Town. Rhodo refers to 'rose' and dendron refers to 'tree'. In the native habitats, most Rhododendrons have a tree like habit. Wild Azaleas too have a tall shrub like habit.


Elepidote (non-scaly leave) and lepidote (scaly leaves) Rhododendrons come in many colors. Some of the precious Rhododendrons that are currently adorning the Azalea hills are: R. scintillation (large showy evergreen leaves, soft pink flowers with white inner star, a classic Dexter); R. 'County of York' (creamish white with faint brown speckled inner petals, slightly fragrant); R. 'skyglow' (faint pink, smaller flowers, deeply fragrant, olive-green leaves, one of the prominent parents of most dexter varieties).



R. smirnowii


"Large-leaf (elepidote) evergreen rhododendrons are typically low, mound-forming shrubs. This group includes the so-called “ironclad” plants bred from R. catawbiense, R. ponticum and R. caucasicum, as well as Fortunei and Yakushimanum hybrids. Small-leaf (lepidote) rhododendrons include some of the hardiest of all evergreen plants in the genus. Deciduous and evergreen azaleas are small to medium-leaved shrubs that bear a profusion of flower trusses. They are commonly known to gardeners as azaleas."https://www.chicagobotanic.org/plantinfo/rhododendron



R. 'skyglow'


Drainage is key for Rhododendrons and hence planting on a mound is beneficial. They don't like wet feet at all. "These plants prefer moist, well-drained, acidic soils in dappled shade and protection from afternoon sun which can scorch the leaves. They do not tolerate dense clay, so if you have clay soil, amend with organic material. The roots may rot if soil does not drain well. Plant the root ball high in the soil to help with drainage issues. Avoid overwatering and over-fertilizing. Azaleas and rhododendrons are at home as understory shrubs planted in groups in woodland or naturalized areas, or as specimens in pollinator gardens where the flowers will attract hummingbirds and bees." https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/rhododendron/


If you are planning on planting any Rhododendrons in your gardens this season, check out this information on basic planting and care: https://www.rhododendron.org/planting.htm

Make sure you check if the variety you pick is suitable to our plant hardiness zone 7. And if you don't have the room to grow the Rhododendrons, you can always come and enjoy them up close on the wild Azalea hills at London Town!


Check out our Wild Azalea series next week to learn more about native and non-native Azaleas.

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