QBARS - v14n2 Mollis Azaleas

Mollis Azaleas
by Alleyne R. Cook, Vancouver, B.C.

In the city of Manchester in England there is a garden of mollis azaleas which to my knowledge has never been mentioned by any garden writer. What makes them so interesting is the method used over a period of about thirty years to produce a strain that flowers 3-4 weeks later than is normal for mollis.
It was while working at Chelsea that I met the member of the Manchester Parks Department who invited me up to see the garden. Chelsea Flower Show is held during the last week in May and it was not until the second week in June that I went north.
Manchester is a huge filthy city in the cold west county of Lancashire. It is an area subject to late frosts that will kill the blooms on plants even in May. It was to avoid these late frosts that this strain was developed.
Work was started in the early twenties with all the varieties of Mollis then available. The last to flower were crossed with each other, the seed sowed and the seedlings raised to flowering size. When they were all blooming the last to open of these were crossed and the sowing and growing repeated. As this had been going on for 30 years it is quite probable that the seedlings just opening when I was there were the 6th and 7th generation. No other species or hybrid had been used to obtain this lateness. It was obtained simply by using the last blooms to flower. By the state of the buds I thought that they would continue flowering till the end of June.
Mr. Living mentions the size and texture of the new Dutch Mollis.* The size of some of the later crosses to flower were equal to any he wrote about. However the intense red shades of the Dutch Mollis were much better than anything in that garden. The latter were in shades of light red, pink, salmon, creams, and yellows.

* "Mullis Azaleas" by L. C. Living, A.R.S. Bulletin, January 1960.