Posts Tagged Rhododendron ‘Pastel #20’
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.
Today I offer you more evidence of my obsession with native deciduous azaleas. Another time, I’ll give you background on their habits and growth requirements. Today, I’m just going to share with you how gosh darn pretty they all are.
I am not a species purist. I’ll grow crosses and cultivars derived from natives if they sound sufficiently interesting. Such is the case with ‘Purple’ above. It’s a named cultivar of our regional Piedmont azalea, commonly called Pinxterbloom Azalea (R. periclymenoides). Although, I don’t think I would have gone so far as to call this flower purple, compared to the species, it is more purple-toned.
For comparison, here’s a shot of the species version of Pinxterbloom Azalea:
It is much pinker, I think you’ll agree. I planted the above azalea about twenty years ago, and it is now fifteen feet tall and ten feet wide. Magnificent doesn’t adequately describe it.
‘Purple’ is a more recent addition, but it’s already about five feet tall and equally wide. Give them the conditions they like, wait a few years, and enjoy the show for many years to follow.
But wait, one more azalea is peaking right now in my north-facing garden (protected by deer fencing). It’s still small, but remarkably floriferous. Here’s a shot of the entire plant:
I say it’s probably Pastel #20, because I seem to have misplaced the label. But by perusing the listings of the nursery from which I purchased it, I don’t think it can be anything else. Now here’s a close-up so you can appreciate the gorgeousness of this one:
See the delicate dusting of yellow-orange inside the petal? Click on this photo to see it more clearly. The nursery I bought this beauty from believes it to be a spontaneous hybrid involving R. alabamensis, R. canescens, and R. flammeum. I don’t really care about its origins; I’m just delighted that it’s growing so beautifully.
I spent a lot of time researching the site requirements of every native deciduous azalea I planted. Some occupy sharp slopes above streams, others like dry hilltops, and some prefer downright swampy conditions. By paying careful attention to their needs, I’m now reaping the rewards of my research. Every year, the plants grow larger and their blooms become more spectacular.
The best part, as far as I’m concerned, is that two-thirds of my deciduous azaleas haven’t yet bloomed, although many are close. This rapid succession of blooms marks the peak of Piedmont springtime. As the last bloom fades and falls, my attention will likely turn to tomatoes.