HOW TO CARE FOR AND GROW AZALEAS

This is another group of plants liable to cause some confusion in the gardener’s mind. All azaleas, to the botanist, are rhododendrons, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas (in the same way as all cacti are succulents but not all succulent plants are cactij. But the azaleas still appear in many nurserymen’s catalogues and in many books under ‘Azaleas’. And, because they form a definite, fairly easily recognisable group, it is convenient to think of them’ separately while remembering that in many publications they may be found correctly under the name Rhododendron.

The azaleas are divided if no two broad sections; those that lose their leaves in winter (deciduous azaleas) and those that are evergreen. These groups are again divided into several smaller groups, .usually of hybrids of one kind or another. Thus among the evergreen azaleas there are the ‘Kurume’ hybrids neat, small-leaved shrubs which reach about 2] to 3 ft. tall. They flower in April and May and there is a fair range of flower colour in pinks, reds, mauves and white. Many of them have Japanese names such as Tii-.’o-I)cgiri a popular crimson variety, and ‘Hi-No-Mayo’, a solid pink variety.

These ‘Kuriimc’ azaleas have been crossed with Rhododendron malcatica to produce another group of excellent hybrids which grow to about 4 5 ft. tall and have somewhat larger flowers in pinks, reds, mauves. They include the deep red ‘John Cairns’ and the rosy-pink ‘Favourite’.

The deciduous azaleas are again split into various groups. The ‘Knap Hill Strain’ is deservedly popular for it includes many charming varieties, flowering in May and early June, growing to about 4-5 ft., many with large flowers, many with fragrant flowers.

The ‘Mollis’ varieties again grow to 4-5 ft. and are among the earliest of azaleas to flower, usually in early May.

The best positions are those where other shrubs or nearby trees cast some light shade during the hottest part of the day. Azaleas will grow in open situations but their flowers are apt to bleach in bright sunshine and do not last as long.

An annual spring mulch round the plants with moist peat and leafmould is beneficial. In hard water districts, if watering is essential it should be done with rain-water rather than tap water.

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