QBARS - v13n1 A Philadelphia Azalea Garden

A Philadelphia Azalea Garden
By Mrs. William A. Kelius

The oldest part of the garden showing the three levels.
Fig. 10.  The oldest part of the garden showing the three levels.

Twenty-two years ago was the beginning of one of the most exquisite gardens it has ever been my privilege to see. Mrs. George Wilson, of the Philadelphia Chapter, began her garden then, on a five acre property in Narbeth. Today, the garden bears mute, but magnificent testimony to the results which can be achieved by a plant lover who, at the time she made the first plantings, confesses she knew little about arrangement in a garden, or propagation of plants.
One thing that makes the garden interesting to a number of people is its maintenance. Despite its scope-there must be nearly 50,000 plants in the garden - Mrs. Wilson and one gardener, Pat, do it all-cuttings, planting, and the not inconsequential part of a thriving garden - weeding.
A winding driveway under mature maples, under planted with pachysandra, leads to a profusion of bloom Glenn Dales, Kurumes, Pericats, mucronatum, Chugai, de Wilde, Sherwood, Gable, Vuyk, Arnold, and Yerkes-Prior.
The charm of the garden lies in the satisfaction to the curiosity of what lies around the bend.
Small grassy carpets are bordered by a myriad of colors, and many of the beds are edged with white candytuft, which only serves to emphasize the color. A series of flagstone steps leads from one garden to another. Varieties in this part of the garden are all old, and this part of the garden still gets the greatest care. A corner in the path, opening up to a small summer house, reveals, beyond that, a small formal garden.

Azalea border facing the porch.
Fig. 11.  Azalea border facing the porch.

White varieties used are 'Snow', 'Palestrina', 'Indica Alba', and 'Gable's Rose Greeley'. Whites are used easily 3 to 1, as against pink, lavender and red. In the two newest sections of the garden, hedges have been made of 'Glacier'. The best red is still deWilde's 'Red Progress', as it fades the least. The pinks shade from 'Briarcliffe' through 'Guy Yerkes', to 'Pink Pearl'. Lavenders are 'Sherwood Orchid', poukhanense , and 'Mauve Beauty'. Yellows are Knaphills - raised from seed. Striped and blotched varieties are the Glenn Dales 'Harlequin', 'Geisha', 'Pinocchio', and 'Bo-Peep'. They are in effect pale pink, and at night stand out with the white.

Azalea Garden showing Candy Tuft border.
Fig. 12.  Azalea Garden showing Candy Tuft border.

Leading from this area through a small gate into a fenced-in area we come to the most precise beds of rooted cuttings, and nearby, a small greenhouse provides the area for real work - some two thousand slips are made from azaleas a year.
A driveway separates the back of the garden from the adjoining property, and here Mrs. Wilson won a no contest vote as the member we'd most like as a neighbor: she had secured permission and planted the neighbor's side of the drive with a beautiful selection of azaleas.
There is a wooded section of the garden, with tanbark walk, and new plantings are being made each year. The Chugais are being used in the newest "little gardens," where plants are not more than 3 years old, and are for the most part newer varieties. Mrs. Wilson values the Chugais because they are late-blooming, beautiful, and so far, hardy. Because of their eight-inch mound of dark green, tiny-leaved foliage, they border perfectly-never get out of order.
One planting is a handsome bed of peppermint-striped effect of 'Geisha', the Glenn Dale azalea - again edged with Candytuft. Along a well, a planting of azalea 'Pink Pearl' is shoulder high because of its elevation, and a mass of bloom.
Lest you feel that rhododendrons are neglected, they are there, and in addition, holly and other evergreens provide a foil against which the colors are emphasized. It is principally an azalea garden, but then, what a garden.