This is an outline of a ten minute talk I gave to the Centerport Garden Club on November 9, 2010
Rhododendrons and azaleas belong to the genus Rhododendron of the heath family (Ericaceae).
- The heath family includes the heaths and heathers, blueberries, mountain laurels and several other ornamental plant groups. Most members of this family require acid soil and good drainage.
Where are Rhododendron’s from?
Some are native to the US.
The British became the first explorers to seek out new additions.
Collecting has brought plants, seeds & cuttings from Japan, China & the Himalayas.
New species are still being collected in central China.
In the 1800’s they were so expensive & were considered a rich person’s plant. They appeared on estates and in arboretums.
Most of the Rhodi’s we know today are hybrids created from the parents of the plants collected by these plant explorers.
- Large leaf evergreen Rhodi’s: Great for screening and as a backdrop behind the flower garden, Catawbiense, English Roseum, Scintillation, Maximum
- Small leaf evergreen Rhodi’s: some sport beautiful mahogany leaves during the winter months, Aglo, Dora Amateus, Mary Fleming, the PJM’s
- Yakushimanum hybrids: usually 3’wx3’h with woolly indumentum on dark green leaves. Have wonderful winter interest, Crete, Fantastica, Ken Janek, Percy Wiseman, Prince & Princess
- Species Rhododendrons, can present well in a mixed flower, shrub border. There is a species rhododendron garden in DC.
- Azaleas-Evergreen: Michael Dirr begins his Azalea Cultivar & Hybrid Group section with:
“In some respects, it is paralyzingly frightening to attempt to present the cultivars of azaleas.”
There are so many but you can begin to study them realizing that some are named for their hybridizers: i.e. Girard Hybrids, Glen Dale Hybrids, Polly Hill’s North Tisbury Hybrids. Others by their location: i.e. Linwood Hybrids, Karume Hybrids of Japan.