Posts Tagged Rhododendron flammeum
As always happens this time of year, Spring is blasting through my yard so fast that I cannot keep up — at least, not in my blog postings. Since early April, every day new bloomers have started while others have stopped. Because I’ve been focused on the vegetable garden, I have not had time to share all the beauty that surrounds me. But fear not, faithful readers, I have been taking hundreds upon hundreds of photographs. Today’s post is the first installment designed to catch you up on all the glorious blossoms.
Let me take you back in time to the middle of April, when my 35-foot tall Two-winged Silverbell (Halesia diptera) was in full bloom. I told you about this spectacular understory native here, but I’ve mentioned it in several other posts over the years. If you search on the name, you’ll find all the relevant posts for this tree. The close-up of the flowers above demonstrates their loveliness — and their popularity with native pollinators.
Here’s what the entire tree looked like this year:
I had to stand pretty far away to get all of it in the photo. That little bit of white at the top right is a bit of the large dogwood trying to show off some of its flowers in the shot.
In the interest of fairness, that aforementioned native dogwood deserves a photo of its own:
To the left in the above photo, you can just see a few blooms of the native redbud variety, ‘Forest Pansy,’ and, of course that’s a bit of Loropetalum ‘Zhuzhou Fuchsia’ filling up the right side of the photo.
Because the showy part of a dogwood flower is actually its bracts, they aren’t quite as pure a white as the petals of the Two-winged Silverbell. But they persist much longer in the landscape.
And, since I mentioned Redbuds, I feel obliged to show you one of the standard natives in my yard in full bloom. Its lavender blossoms are emphasized by the green backdrop of the native Red Cedars behind it.
Now I want to turn your attention to the deciduous azaleas in my yard. I mention them in passing regularly, and you can find all the links by searching on the species or the category. The links that follow point back to the first posts from 2011 in which I described these wonderful understory natives.
Since 2011, all the azaleas have grown considerably. Some attain mature sizes in the 20′ x 15′ range, and I can tell that several of my specimens are well on their way to achieving their full potential. Some species and/or their cultivars bloom magnificently every year, while others seem to alternate years.
First to bloom, as usual, was Pinxterbloom Azalea (Rhodendron periclymenoides). It had its lushest bloom season so far, and thanks to the mostly cool weather, the blooms persisted longer than usual.
Soon after, it’s cultivar, ‘Purple,’ also bloomed, but its blooms were sparse this year.
Overlapping the bloom time of Pinxterbloom was my R. austrinum hybrid, Pastel #19. This shrub is always ridiculously floriferous, and its potent perfume carries halfway across my five-acre yard on spring breezes. When it is at peak bloom, it stops visitors in their tracks every time.
While Pastel #19 continued to bloom, another hybrid, Pastel #20 started its bloom cycle. Perhaps hybrid vigor explains why both these hybrids bloom with spectacular consistency every year.
I love the golden throats on these flowers.
Next to bloom was my R. alabamense, a native that is also reliably floriferous even without the benefits of hybrid vigor.
Its flowers emit a faint perfume that I enjoy for its subtlety.
The mostly cool spring has definitely prolonged bloom time for the azaleas this year.
My Oconee Azalea (R. flammeum) is over 8 feet tall now. Its form is more open than some of the other deciduous azalea species. My specimen bloomed heavily last year. This year, it’s not quite as floriferous, but still a knockout in the landscape.
Last of the azalea natives to bloom so far this year is Coastal Azalea (R. atlanticum). This native of southeastern US coastal plains keeps a much lower profile than my other deciduous azaleas. So far, it’s only about three feet tall in its high spots. The native species is a colonial spreader, but my cultivar, ‘Winterthur,’ is supposed to be more polite. It has gotten wider, but not aggressively so.
The flowers of Coastal Azalea are pure white, with no throat blotches as you see in R. alabamense. They are very potently fragrant — a cloying sweetness that is not my favorite. Because of its smaller size, I often smell the open flowers on this specimen before I see them the first time.
Flowers of a couple of my other deciduous azalea varieties are almost open for business. I’ll show you those soon. Meanwhile, let me close today’s post with a photo or two of my trellis full of blooming Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’).
Unlike invasive Japanese Honeysuckle, the Major (as I like to call him) does not spread aggressively. However, it is enthusiastic, so I do cut it back severely every other year. The Major doesn’t object to this treatment, continuing to bloom so magnificently that every visitor to my house stops, gapes, and begs to know his name.
The change in wind direction after a frontal passage brought this azalea to my attention. Its powerful fragrance is described as clove-scented in some references. To my nose, it’s a tad overpowering, especially for a native deciduous azalea so relatively diminutive in size.
My cultivar of Coastal Azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum) is Winterthur, and its advantage is that, unlike the species, it is not stoloniferous. That means it won’t spread itself via underground roots. In my case, that’s a good thing, because in its native sandy soil of the Coastal Plain of the mid-Atlantic and Carolinas, this shrub has been known to cover a square mile. That’s too much of a good thing, even for me. My references tell me that the species doesn’t spread so much in heavier soils, so it’s likely that Piedmont clay would inhibit its enthusiasm somewhat.
Coastal Azalea only grows three to four feet high and about as wide. It’s definitely the most petite native deciduous azalea I grow. But between the snow-white flowers and their potent perfume, you’ll never miss it in your shady landscape. Because this shrub naturally occurs in open pine forests in well-drained soil, I planted mine at the top of my hill beneath mature pines. It has been blooming for a few days now, and I’ll probably get another week of flowers before it’s done.
Also blooming right now is a cultivar of Oconee Azalea (Rhododendron flammeum) called Scarlet Ibis. Its flowers have no fragrance, but they are lovely, as you can see here:
When I purchased this cultivar, I imagined it would be redder than the species. But in my yard, it’s really more pink than red. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s gorgeous — just not what I was expecting. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, because flower color in this species in the wild is quite variable, ranging from yellow to salmon to orange-red. It naturally occurs in the Piedmont of Georgia and South Carolina and is noted for its heat tolerance.
In my yard, Scarlet Ibis blooms about a week after my plain species Oconee Azalea finishes blooming. It is about six feet high now, and is supposed to top out at eight feet, with a similar spread. The flowers of my species representative are a magnificent shade of orange-red, which is why I was surprised when my Scarlet Ibis turned out to be paler than the species. Here’s a close-up that Wonder Spouse took of the flowers of the plain species:
As you can see, they’re both lovely azaleas. But the one that grabs your eye in the shady landscape of my yard is the species version. The deep orange fire of the flowers cannot be ignored.
Scarlet Ibis, on the other hand, is more subtle. Luckily for me, I planted this cultivar along the edge of a bed near the house, where I can’t overlook its exquisite blooms.