September 12, 2008

Azaleas for Repeat Blooms

Appropriately named Encore® Azalea , I’ve been pleased with the repeat performance of spring and fall blooms. Azaleas are interesting to the local deer herd, so it is necessary to keep these flowering shrubs inside the fenced cottage garden. These azaleas do well when planted in the fall or winter, giving the roots time to establish before the spring blooms.

I’ve found that the Encore Azaleas can take more sun than some of the other varieties that I’ve grown at previous houses. I have three tree-form (Autumn Amethyst™ and Autumn Twist™) planted along the garage wall in the cottage garden. I’ve found that Twist (middle azalea) doesn’t look as striped as expected. This little area along the wall is a micro-climate protected from the west by the garage and shaded in the afternoons.

I grow golden creeping jenny at the feet of these azaleas which helps retain moisture and prevent weeds. While creeping jenny hasn’t been invasive in my garden, it is aggressive and will rapidly fill a garden bed. Check to see whether jenny is considered invasive in your area before planting it. Other companions to these azaleas are heuchera ‘Purple Palace’ and a few volunteers that nature planted including a phlox ‘Robert Poore’ and purple petunias. I like the phlox so much that I intend to transplant more seedlings to the area next spring.

On the other side of the cottage garden, I have three more Encore Azaleas planted beneath the edges of a Kwansan cherry tree. I have geranium ‘Brookside’, balloon flowers, garden phlox and creeping perennial heliotrope as companions in that area.

My tree-form azaleas were planted two years ago and the shrub-size were planted three years ago. The blooms are most bountiful in April. There are a few occasional blooms in the summer if there is no drought. In the first weeks of September, the azaleas put on another good show in the garden.

The hardiness zones for Encore® Azalea include 7-10. Most are listed as 3x3 to 4x4 in size, but my tree-form specimens will be taller and hopefully fill up the blank wall. Azaleas prefer slightly acidic soil, so you may want to get a soil test if you’ve not grown azaleas before. These azaleas are rhododendron hybrids. Best of all, these evergreen azaleas provide year round interest.

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Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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