Jerry Harris' Azaleas
San Jose, California
Jerry Harris likes yellow and orange deciduous azaleas and has been hybridizing them since 1973. The primary aim of Jerry's hybridizing program is to obtain large trusses with many large flowers per truss in mainly yellow and orange colors.
Some time ago, Ev and Marge Farwell brought plants of a 'Knap Hill Yellow' x 'Klondyke' cross to a Monterey Bay Chapter meeting. Jerry obtained one of the plants, which even though it had smallish flowers, had many flowers per truss. This is the plant that Jerry has used as the pollen parent for many of his hybrids.
| 'Hotspur Yellow' x ('Knap Hill Yellow' x 'Klondyke')
Photo by Michael McCullough
He crossed the 'Knap Hill Yellow' x 'Klondyke' onto 'Hotspur Yellow', a yellow with large flowers, but only four to five flowers per truss. The result is what Jerry calls his "Queen" series. These plants have large yellow flowers in a ball-shaped truss. One of the Queens has a good round ball-shaped truss about eight-inches across, another, probably the best, has a six-inch truss. The Queens also have good fall foliage. They have done well at shows, even winning a trophy at the California Chapter show.
Some of the Knap Hill and Exbury azaleas that Jerry likes are 'Orangeade' (best named orange with good fall foliage), 'Rennie' (red, suffused with yellow, good fall foliage), 'Golden Eagle' (reddish orange), 'Gibraltar' (vivid orange) and 'Old Gold' (beautiful yellow).
'Rennie', 'Gibraltar' and 'Old Gold' have all been used in Jerry's crosses. The crosses with 'Old Gold' produced his "Princess" series. One of this series first bloomed when the plant was 16" tall, and now, several years later the plant is only 20" tall.
Another of Jerry's hybrids is R. occidentale GC4AK 'Mendocino Marvel' x R. prunifolium. 'Mendocino Marvel' was discovered by Allen Korth, on one of Gene German's R. occidentale expeditions, at the Spurlock Ranch near Point Arena, and is one of the best forms of R. occidentale. The flower color is pink with a large orange flare on the upper petal. It blooms in late May and the leaves turn red in the fall.
Many deciduous azalea species also grow in Jerry's garden. He has grown a number of these from ARS seed exchange seed. Some of his favorites are R. arborescens, R. calendulaceum, R. bakeri, R. roseum [syn. R. prinophyllum], R. canadense, R. japonicum, R. speciosum [syn. R. flammeum] and R. occidentale.
Michael McCullough is a member of all the California chapters and newsletter editor for De Anza and Monterey Bay Chapters. He has a special interest in rhododendrons in the wild, particularly R. occidentale.