QBARS - v16n2 Azaleas and Rhododendrons of Washington D.C. Area

Azaleas and Rhododendrons of Washington, D.C. Area
Henry T. Skinner

Visitors to the May meeting at Winterthur, Delaware, will realize that Washington, D.C., may be on the way or is distant from Wilmington by about two and one-half hours travel time. Unlike the average tourist in this city of many attractions, he should also know that an azalea-rhododendron visit to the National Capital can be quite rewarding. Exclusive of the tender types, the evergreen azaleas perform as well here as anywhere in the world and may be seen in great variety. There are many deciduous azaleas, and rhododendrons do well, too, and are being planted in increasing numbers. Even though the District of Columbia may not yet put Oregon to rhododendron shame, it may well become a major eastern center for many species and varieties which tend to be discouraged by greater extremes of cold or summer heat.

Washington's showiest effects are in evergreen azaleas and these are normally at their peak during the last week in April. To catch these, a pre Winterthur visit would therefore be advisable. If this is impossible or if a lesser show of rhododendrons is preferred, the week following the meeting would not be disappointing.

While many gardens, public and private, could be mentioned, proprietors of any of the following will be best acquainted with ARS members through previous visitations of the Middle Atlantic Chapter.


These are home gardens which are notable for their interesting collections and are largely owned by members of the Society. In the vicinity of Bethesda, Maryland: Dr. and Mrs. Frederick 0. Coe, Bethesda. This is one of the longer established gardens which displays fine specimens of rhododendron hybrids as the Loderis, Dexters, etc., as well as splendid examples of native and other azaleas in the shade of high oaks.

Mr. and Mrs. Frederick P. Lee, Bethesda. The author of The Azalea Book has combined a colorful display of unusual varieties of azaleas with rhododendrons and interesting companion plants as hollies, osmanthus, hostas, narcissus, lilies, and many others.

Mr. and Mrs. William H. McCrillis, Bethesda. A little more in the country, this is a somewhat newer garden which is still expanding to include numerous hybrid rhododendrons in addition to earlier established specimens of azaleas and allied plants.

Toward Silver Spring, Maryland:

Mr. and Mrs. Stuart M. Armstrong, Silver Spring. Cresting a wooded slope to the scenic Sligo Creek Parkway, this garden is best known for its terraced plantings of early-distributed Glenn Dale azaleas and, surrounding the house, for unusual plants of many kinds.

In College Park, Maryland:

Dr. and Mrs. Frank P. Cullinan, College Heights, Maryland. This shady and pleasant garden lies about two blocks to the right of Route 1 traveling south from College Park. It has served as the leaven in interesting a series of adjacent property owners in the planting of azaleas and rhododendrons so that, without conspicuous barriers, a sizeable area has taken on the appearance of one large garden. With previous notification, Dr. Cullinan will be pleased to secure permission for visits to these several adjacent properties.

Semi-Public and Public Gardens

Azaleas in a Terrace Feature at Dumbarton Oaks
Fig. 17.  A Study in Composition. Azaleas in a Terrace Feature at Dumbarton Oaks </p>

Washington, D.C. R. 'Mucronatum' predominates. </td> </tr> </table> </div>

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. Open, free, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. Sundays, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Site of the Dumbarton Oaks conference which led to development of the United Nations, and now the property of Harvard University, this beautiful estate in old-world Georgetown is the creation of the Honorable and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss who maintain keen interest in its continuing development. It does not embody variety collections of either rhododendron or azaleas but, as one of the finest and most carefully designed gardens of this country, it has examples of some of the most effectively displayed specimens of these plants to be seen anywhere. Old, cascading masses of white flowered R. mucronatum are especially noteworthy. Structural features and the varied units and patterns of this garden derive from a blending of the ideas and designs of Mrs. Bliss and Mrs. Beatrix Farr and and should be seen and enjoyed by anyone with horticultural inclinations.

Landon School, Bethesda, Maryland. Open 12:00 noon to 10:00 p.m. May 5 and 6 only. Admission, $1.25. Includes exhibits of antique furniture and flower arrangement at Headmaster's house, folk dancing, a plant and flower arrangement sales, with night lighting and school chorus at 8:30 p.m. each day.  Gardens of the Landon School were formerly a part of the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Milo Perkins who assembled and planted the collection of several thousands of Kurume, Glenn Dale, Gable, Pericat, and other azaleas which form the principal show feature. Massed under high shade, under planted with quantities of blue phlox and other ground covers, and bordered by beautifully maintained lawns and winding pathways, the Landon azalea plantings are a rewarding sight in late April and early May. Hybrid rhododendrons and tree peonies provide later bloom. Public visitation is confined to the dates specified.

U.S. National Arboretum, Maryland Avenue and "M" Street, N.E., or "R" Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. Open, free, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday mid-April to mid-May, and on work days throughout the year. Azalea and rhododendron plantings of the U.S. National Arboretum were described and pictured in fair detail in the April 15, 1954, issue of the Bulletin. Principal highlights may be listed on a seasonal basis as follows:

Mid-April -The earlier species as R. mucronulatum , reticulatum and schlippenbachii .

Late April -The main groups of semi-evergreen azaleas including the impressive 15 year old plantings of some 65,000 Glenn Dale hybrids on the slopes of Mt. Hamilton, the reference collection of the Morrison Garden, and the woodland color groupings of 1,000 varieties of Kurume, Glenn Dale, Gable, Chisholm-Merritt, Pericat, and other hybrids.

Early May - Additional semi-evergreen azaleas, the earlier native Ghent and Mollis azaleas, and earlier, large leaved rhododendrons.

Mid-May - The main groups of Knap Hill azaleas and large-leaved rhododendrons including the extensive Gotelli planting established during the past season and the nearby Dexter hybrids.

Late May--Early June - The later Glenn Dale hybrids, Satsuki hybrids, and native species. Some of the latter provide scattered bloom through the next two months.

New visitors should realize that azaleas bring many thousands to the Arboretum on fine week ends of late April and early May. Visitation on days other than Saturdays and Sundays is more comfortable and guided tours can be more conveniently arranged.

North to Delaware

A person with a day or two to spend in Washington will learn of other fine gardens and of several nurseries featuring his favorite plants. En route to Delaware, he has also been invited to see azalea plantings of Ten Oaks Nurseries (wholesale) at Clarksville, Maryland, and should know of the highly colorful azalea-tulip plantings of Sherwood Gardens, Baltimore. They cover a 7 acre city block on Highfield Road east of N. Charles Street, and are open, free, at all times. Kingsville, just north of Baltimore on Route 1, is the home of Kingsville Nurseries and its famed collections of rare plants. Mr. Andrew Adams of Ten Oaks Nurseries, and Mr. Henry Hohman of Kingsville Nurseries, would appreciate advance notice if a stop is anticipated.