It's Long Past Time
Mac K. Granston, Redmond, Washington
I would refer you to the article in the Jan. 75 Bulletin by Marjorie Baird "A Plug for Deciduous Azaleas from Seed" and the article by Henry Fuller, in the April 75 issue "The Time Has Come." I fully agree with Mr. Fuller, except his title, and very well know the frustration of trying to buy any of these eastern azaleas. Thanks to generous contributors from the East, and Esther Berry and her valiant crew, I have them all now except R. oblongifolium. Many are now of blooming size, and I can really appreciate what we have been missing all these years.
About the only eastern azalea fairly well known here in the Northwest is R. vaseyi. Oddly enough, the Asian species are much more widely grown here than are the varieties from the Eastern United States. This is why I so highly recommend Fred Galle's book, Azaleas. Many of the eastern American species are illustrated in color. Although the blossoms are smaller than the Exburys, once the plants reach some degree of maturity, they are literally smothered in bloom. An added dividend is flaming fall leaf color in most.
A plant of R. arborescens was purchased from our University of Washington Arboretum Foundation Plant Sale in 1965. It is late, fragrant and thoroughly delightful, but does not conform to the picture in Mr. Galle's book, since it does not have the red stamens. From the seed sent in by Dr. Yelton in 1970, 1 have two plants left. Hopefully, these will conform.
In 1966 I received seed from the late, great Leonard Frisbie, labeled "Gregory Bald Mix". I hadn't the faintest idea what this was, and rather reluctantly grew some 17 on, wondering why I was giving them the space. Was I ever wrong! They have turned out to be mainly R. bakeri, with a few poor hybrids. Fred Galle confirms this, based on chromosome counts done years ago. The best are traffic stoppers - a glorious blend of orange and red. One is a dwarf and just as red as any "Camp's Red'.
R. alabamense, received from Dr. Yelton in 1972, has not bloomed yet, but has such glorious fall color it would be worth a place in any garden. Seed of R. atlanticum was received from Mr. Frisbie in 1965. The plants are dwarf, have grey-green foliage and blooms of pink to white, and are not as stoloniferous as the literature would indicate. R. austrinum is exactly as pictured in Mr. Galle's book, though he was puzzled by the fact the plant had not lost all it's leaves. This, no doubt, was due to our exceptionally mild winter. I have a very cold garden in an inland valley, and my lowest temperature was 20 degrees. Small plants are coming on from seed sent in by the Azalea Chapter in 1971. Dr. Yelton sent seed of R. calendulaceum in 1970. Of four that bloomed this year one is fantastic, a large orange red. Cuttings of this selection have been given to a local nurseryman and have rooted almost 100 per cent. It will remain to be seen if they break dormancy in the spring.
I succeeded in rooting R. bakeri last year, but lost them all the following spring. Mr. Bagoly or Dr. Yates sent seed of R. cumberlandense in 1969. A few bloomed this spring. Although some writers regard this as being the same as R. bakeri, I would question this. They were much inferior to the R. bakeri in size of bloom and color. Again the Azalea Chapter came to the rescue and sent in c. w. seed of R. canescens in 1971, which are coming along nicely. I can hardly wait. Seed of R. nudiflorum came from the University of Washington Arboretum in 1966. Most have bloomed and are identical. Since this one is extremely stoloniferous, there seems no excuse why this can't be made available here. Seed of R. prunifolium was received from Mr. Frisbie and Dr. Yelton in 1967. Many bloomed this summer, rather sparsely, and were a bright orange, with the added bonus of blooming through July and August. Fall leaf color is disappointing. A Mr. Early sent in seed of R. serrulatum in 1971. This is proving to be the most tender, though some dozen plants remain. This isn't surprising, since this was c. w. seed from N.W. Florida. Again the Azalea Chapter is to be commended for sending in c. w. seed of R. speciosum in 1971. This gave only a hint of what I may expect in 1976.
I purchased a seedling plant of R. roseum in 1966. This turned out to be a hybrid with an orange father. No matter - the plant carries as a glowing orangey-pink. Visitors walk right past the Exburys and Ghents and exclaim "What is that?" One named it "Orange Sherbet" on the spot. It shall be moved to an honored position against a weathered stump.
Seed of R. roseum received from Mr. Frisbie in 1966 have all bloomed identical, a delightful, fragrant pink. I believe R. roseum is my favorite of the pinks. Again, Mr. Frisbie provided seed of R. vaseyi in 1967. These, too, have all bloomed identical, a nice pink with excellent fall color. Dr. Yelton sent seed of R. viscosum in 1966. These too, all have identical blooms, a lovely white, with some foliage more glaucous than others.
All of these eastern wildlings are growing in full sun, since I have no other place to put them. The hot colors, orange to red, would be better in some afternoon shade, and my plans are to group these eastern goodies in a new bed, with- afternoon shade, which hopefully will be ready by spring.
I thoroughly agree with Mr. Fuller - somehow a way must be found to propagate these lovelies and make them available to a largely ignorant public who doesn't demand them because it doesn't know them. The eastern azaleas are surprisingly hardy, thus valuable to our colder gardens. In the meantime, don't be afraid to try seed - I have purposely given acquisition dates to show you that it does not take forever to bloom them from seed. My eternal gratitude to the Seed Exchange and you eastern contributors - surely this is the most useful function of the A.R.S.