A Report on Some Exbury Azaleas
By John Henny, Brooks, Oregon
I saw the Exbury azaleas flower for the first time in 1949 at the Exbury Gardens. I had heard of them, and had them described with many superlatives on quite a number of occasions, but seeing is still believing. I may have had some misgivings, but these were quickly dispelled without seeing too many of them. There were quite a number of named ones, but actually almost any of them were quite deserving of a name. There was a bed of several thousand seedlings about fifteen inches tall and any one of them was as good or better than many of the named forms of Mollis that are in cultivation In other words all were good and most could easily have been named.
These azaleas are truly square jawed, which is the way they were often described in Great Britain. The petals are wide and open flat like a pansy. The trusses are full and of good substance as well as quite large. Due to the width of the individual petal and the fact that some are six petaled there is very little imbrication which makes them look larger than they really are, although some varieties actually measure fully five inches in diameter and are fragrant.
The colors are rich, with many shades that are not very often found in other types. Some are good clear pinks such as R. 'Cecile', R. 'Strawberry Ice' and R. 'Beauleau'. R. 'Cecile' of course is my personal favorite. White colors are also found amongst them, with R. ;Basilisk' being large and very good. R. 'Nancy Buchanan' is also a white and quite good. R. 'Ginger' is a very good bright orange.
Fig. 27. Exbury Azalea
R. 'George Reynolds'
Fig. 28. Exbury Azalea
R. Henny photo
R. 'Hugh Wormald' is my choice of the bright yellows and R. 'Klondyke' is a very good deep golden yellow. R. 'Firefly' is a large brick red. R. 'Gallipoli' is a multicolored one that is a little hard to describe for color, and it is a good one. R. 'Berryrose' is a desirable one in a deep salmon rose. R. 'Hotspur', orange and R. 'Hotspur' yellow are both nice as are R. 'Gibraltar', deep orange and R. 'George Reynolds', a large bright yellow.
R. 'Favor Major', R. 'Royal Lodge', R. 'John Jennings', R. 'Brazil', and R. 'Golden Horn' as they have flowered for us have not been as exciting or as good as the others mentioned above. We have had these plants since 1949 and they are now well established plant some four to five feet tall, and I feel as though this lapse of time has given me ample opportunity to observe them.
These plants flowered for us the first year of import and Mr. Wennekamp, who works for me, wondered what I was thinking about to pay good money for them. I would have been the first to agree with him if I had not seen them at Exbury. Yet, when they flowered the next time he lost almost all interest in the rhododendrons and every year his interest increases for they are really outstanding in an azalea group. Some people that have acquired these plants and had them flower the first year after import have not been reluctant to tell us that they were a little disappointed, but on seeing them flower the second year have not been hesitant to tell us that they had made a mistake in judging them too quickly. They are now as impressed with them as we are.
This year we flowered, in the first year of import, R. 'Bright Forecast', a creamy pink that is very fragrant. Also R. 'Pink Delight' a good rich pink and R. 'Madeline' a clear soft pink. These show promise of being very good. We have also acquired R. 'Princess Royal' which is described as being very large and a good deep pink. We have not seen it flower but some that saw it at Exbury say it is probably one of the best.
This year we flowered quite a number of seedlings of the original importations and they have nearly all been very good. Everyone that has seen them would have been well pleased to have any of them in their garden. These seeds were mixed as there was not much seed the first year so the colors were quite well mixed. We have self pollinated most of them and in another year or two we should be able to report which ones will nearly reproduce themselves from seed. Some of them undoubtedly will, but of course, superior and inferior forms will, like in all hybridization always follow the averages.