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Journal American Rhododendron Society

Current Editor:
Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com


Volume 60, Number 2
Spring 2006

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Deciduous Azaleas: A Collection Started 45 Years Ago
Earl Sommerville
Marietta, Georgia

        As a young man just out of the Air Force in 1960 I started to collect wild honeysuckle bushes north of Marietta, Georgia, in and around Lake Allatoona. (The old timers from this area called native azaleas wild honeysuckles.) In this area there were at least five species growing together, which made outstanding interspecific hybrid plants with beautiful flowers. On that first trip I collected three plants, which I named 'Orange Carpet'*, 'Razzberry'* and 'Earl's Angel'*. I still have all three plants. In the '60s and '70s it was all right to collect plants. In the '80s you had to get them before the bulldozer did.
        In the early '60s I took up deer hunting and that expanded the territory to most of the state of Georgia. In the spring when I was looking for deer signs I would tag nice native azaleas so if I returned that fall hunting I would always have my shovel. You can get a lot of azaleas into a 1960 Volkswagen. I have collected some plants that should have been red, but when they bloomed were yellow or pink, which meant someone switched my tags. Of course I never would do that to anyone else!
        On one trip looking for plants in the north Georgia Mountains in the early '60s in my old trusty Volkswagen, after a lot of rain I tried to ford a creek, lost traction and was floating down the creek big time. My partner and I jumped out and pushed the bug on to a sand bar and came out. On the return to the creek, on the way out, I had enough speed to skip across the water without incidence.
        In the late '80s the creeks got wider, the water colder and the hills steeper and my interest turned to seeds and propagation of native azaleas. In the pass year I have taken up tissue culture. After forty-five years of collecting native azaleas I have over 200 very nice plants ranging in age from forty-five years to less than three years. I have been pressured to name some of the better plants and put them in the hands of good nurserymen and let the public have the opportunity to have these plants in their gardens.

Native Azaleas Selections:
'Orange Carpet'* is a natural hybrid of Rhododendron calendulaceum x R. flammeum collected in 1960 at Lake Allatoona. The plant, in 45 years, has grown to a size of 18 in. high and 8 feet wide. The limbs grow horizontally but do not attach to the ground. The flowers are upright orange in clusters or ball truss. The plant will not set seed and is very difficult to propagate. This plant is available at Rare Find Nursery.
        'Razzberry'* is a natural hybrid of Rhododendron flammeum x R. periclymenoides collected in 1960 at Lake Allatoona. The plant is 4 ft. high x 4 ft. wide in 45 years. The flowers are raspberry in color, with a bright yellow blotch. This plant is available at Rare Find Nursery.

R. 'Earl's Angel'*
'Earl's Angel'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Earl's Angel'* is a natural hybrid of Rhododendron flammeum x R. periclymenoides collected in 1960 at Lake Allatoona. In 45 years, the plant is 10 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide with a bloom that is white with a raspberry overtone that turns white with age and has a yellow blotch.

R. 'Earl's Gold'*
'Earl's Gold'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Earl's Gold'* is a Rhododendron austrinum x unknown open pollinated seedling of the late '70s that shows a lot of vigor. In 25 years the plant is 15 ft. high and 8 ft. wide. Gold color flowers that make a large ball truss will get you to stop and take a second look. It is available at Rare Find Nursery.

R. 'Sommerville's Pink'*
'Sommerville's Pink'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Sommerville's Pink'* is a Rhododendron flammeum collected in the mid-'80s in Spalding County Georgia near Griffin. The bloom is a very rich pink on a plant that is a mid-season bloomer. The plant is 12 ft. high x 8 ft. wide in 15 years. This plant will be valuable at Mountain Shadow Nursery early 2006.

R. 'Memory of James Thompson'*
'Memory of James Thompson'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Memory of James Thompson'* is of unknown parentage. This plant was given to me by Mr. Thompson in the late '70s or early '80s. A very strong grower and heavy bloomer, the plant is 12 ft. high x 11 ft. wide, bright gold with a darker gold blotch with medium size flower that forms a large ball truss. This plant is located outside my glass sunroom and when it blooms it lightens up this room. This plant will be available at Mountain Shadow Nursery in early 2006.

R. 'Verdie Sommerville'*
'Verdie Sommerville'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Verdie Sommerville'* is a seedling of Rhododendron flammeum x 'Strawberry Ice' that produces a red-yellow flower with a gold blotch. The bloom will last for three weeks and is very showy. The plant is 7 ft. high x 5 ft. wide in 10 years. This plant will be available at Mountain Shadow Nursery in early 2006.

R. 'Ed Stephens'*
'Ed Stephens'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Ed Stephens'* is an azalea of unknown parentage. The plant was given to me by Mr. Stephens in the mid-'90s. The mid-season bloom is a very bright redľorange ball truss that looks as if it is on fire. This plant will be available at Mountain Shadow Nursery early 2006.

R. 'Ann Marie'*
'Ann Marie'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Ann Marie'* is a seedling of a Rhododendron serrulatum, now R. viscosum, x' Red Flammeum'. This plant is 5 ft. high x 4 ft. wide in eight years and is a mid-season bloomer with a pinkish red flower with a white tube and a yellow orange blotch. You will notice this plant from a distance. This plant will be available at Mountain Shadow Nursery early 2006.
        'Evening Sunset'* is a natural hybrid of Rhododendron austrinum collected in the southwest corner of Georgia near the dam at Lake Seminole in the late '70s. This plant will produce a large orange ball truss bloom. The plant will grow to 15 ft. high x 12 ft. wide in 25 years.
        'Evening Red Sunset'* is a Rhododendron flammeum selection collected near Milledgeville, Georgia, in the early '80s. This plant produces a beautiful red ball truss bloom, but the plant would only be a seven out of a ten rating.

R. 'Mallory'*
'Mallory'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Mallory'* is a Rhododendron flammeum x R. flammeum grown from seed. The color is orange red with a strong yellow blotch. The blooms make a smaller ball truss but showy. The plant is 8 ft. wide x 8 ft. high in 15 years.
        'Sommerville's Sunrise'* is a Rhododendron austrinum selection collected near Quincy, Florida, in the early '80s. The plant, in full sun, is 8 ft. high x 8 ft. wide in 20 years. It is a light yellow bloom with a red pistil. This plant, like most of my collection, makes a ball truss.
        'Pink Ember'* is a seedling of (Rhododendron bakeri, now R. cumberlandense x R. viscosum) x R. arborescens from the late '70s. It is a mid-season pink bloomer with a strong yellow blotch. If one looks at this plant from fifty feet or more you would say that it is a yellow flowering plant. In 25 years the plant is 3 ft. x 3 ft., very twiggy with new growth only 3 inches or less each year.
        'Magenta Rose Flame'* is a Rhododendron flammeum selection collected near Milledgeville, Georgia, and given to me by Mr. Ed Stephens in the early '90s. This is the closest plant that I have seen that is almost a purple. When the bloom dries the color is a very dark blue. The plant is 8 ft. high x 5 ft. wide in 13 years.
        'Edith Marie'* is a natural hybrid of Rhododendron flammeum collected near Griffin, Georgia. The plant is only 3 ft. high in 10 years with very dark pink flowers.

R. 'Kate'*
'Kate'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Kate'* is a Rhododendron austrinum selection. I do not remember from where it came, but I've had this plant for over twenty years. It is a very heavy bloomer with a darker orange color than most R. austrinum plants . The plant is 8 ft. high x 8 ft. wide and a little on the twiggy side.

R. 'Elizabeth Lane'*
'Elizabeth Lane'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'Elizabeth Lane'* is a seedling of Rhododendron flammeum x 'Strawberry Ice' that produces a pink bloom with one top petal that is white with a gold blotch. The plant is 8 ft. x 8 ft. in fifteen years.

R. 'John Conner'*
'John Conner'*
Photo by Earl Sommerville

        'John Conner'* is a Rhododendron prunifolium collected in Harris County Georgia in the mid-'80s and has very good color and blooms in late July. Plant in twenty years is 10 ft. x 10 ft. and is a good performer year after year.

* Name is not registered.

Mr. Sommerville is a member of the Azalea Chapter.


Volume 60, Number 2
Spring 2006

DLA Ejournal Home | JARS Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JARS and other ejournals