Plumleaf Azalea Wins Award
Rhododendron prunifolium, commonly known in its home in the Southeast as the plumleaf azalea, has been awarded the first annual Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Medal by the Garden Club of America. The medal was established to acknowledge the "cultivation and use of plants that are little known but deemed worthy to be preserved, propagated, promoted and planted." The medal was presented to Dr. William E. Barrick, vice president and director of Callaway Gardens on May 16, 1995.
The plants considered for the award must meet two criteria: 1) the plant must be of an outstanding or unusual species or cultivar with preference given to native plants, and 2) the plant must not be readily available for landscape use in at least one major portion of the country.
Cason and Virginia Callaway, co-founders of Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., have been instrumental in the preservation and propagation of R. prunifolium. Cason Callaway discovered the plant in 1930 near Blue Springs in Hamilton, Ga. It is native only to an area within a 100-mile radius of Pine Mountain.
Rhododendron prunifolium is a deciduous azalea and can grow considerably farther north than its homeland. It is considered hardy from USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9. It is the latest azalea to bloom, in July and August, and its vibrant colors of orange to deep red are a great addition to the late summer landscape when few other shrubs are in bloom. It has become endangered in the wild and is one of the Center for Plant Conservation's endowed species at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Mass.