QBARS - v26n4 New Azaleas at Callaway Gardens

New Azaleas at Callaway Gardens
Pine Mountain, Georgia

The J. S. Ames' Collection of 240 azaleas, descendants of the original Kurume azaleas from Japan, was recently donated to Callaway Gardens by Mr. and Mrs. Oliver F. Ames of Boston, Mass. With the Ames Collection, the Horticultural Department of the Callaway Foundation has assembled over 500 varieties of azaleas, making the collection one of the largest public displays in the world.

The Ames' azaleas are well known in the Northeast and were frequently displayed in many flower shows such as the New England Flower Show of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. In addition, the Ames' collection has won many special awards including medals from the New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Many of the Ames azaleas are direct progeny or cutting from the first large collection of Kurume azaleas introduced into this country about 60 years ago.

Originally, the Kurume azaleas were developed by Motozo Sakamoto, a Japanese nurseryman, who raised and selected seedlings of azaleas growing on the sacred Mt. Kirishima. After Sakamoto's death, the collection was passed on to Kokiro Akashi, a nurseryman from Kurume, a small town on the southern Island of Kyushu, Japan.

The Kurume azaleas, as they were called, remained from western admiration until Ernest H. "Chinese" Wilson saw them in 1914 while visiting the nursery district of Angyo, North of Tokyo. At the time, Wilson was a plant explorer for the Arnold Arboretum, and at Wilson's suggestion, Mr. John S. Ames of North Eaton, Mass., procured a number of small Kurume azaleas from the Yokahama Nursery Co. in 1916. The initial importation of Kurume azaleas began arriving in the Eastern States in the following spring of 1917.

The following year, Wilson made his first visit to the island of Kurume, and subsequently presented the Arnold Arboretum with a selection of plants called the "Wilson's Fifty". Concurrently, another group of plants called the Domoto Introductions was brought to California in 1917, however, neither this collection nor the "Wilson Fifty" or the Ames Collection presently exist in their original entirety.

Exceedingly popular as landscape plants, the lovely evergreen Kurume azaleas are noted for their abundance of flowers and the purity and luster of their colors. Over 250 varieties of Kurumes have been named, however, today less than 20 of these are commonly available. A few of the original "Wilsons Fifty" are Hinodegiri (Hino), Appleblossom (Hoo), Pink Pearl (Azuma-kagami), Peachblossom (Saotome), and Flame (Suetsumu). Of the Domoto Introductions still found today, the varieties Bridesmaid, Christmas Cheer, Coral Bells, Salmon Beauty, and Snow, are most often seen.

The Callaway Gardens' collection of ornamental or introduced azaleas was started in 1953, and today it is one of the world's largest public displays with 500 varieties or cultivars including the Kurume azaleas, Southern Indian hybrids, Glenn Dales, Satsuki, Back Acres hybrids and many others.

In 1965 plans for an azalea bowl were conceived to provide a garden of intensive color from the Kurume and Kurume hybrid azaleas that bloom early in the spring. The Azalea Bowl is a natural bowl-shaped amphitheatre. Finding the sources of these hybrids has been a continuing project of the Horticultural staff which is directed

by Fred C. Galle. Cuttings from various arboretums and private collections were obtained and rooted. The first azaleas were moved to the bowl in the winter of 1971. Now over 100 varieties are assembled in this area with approximately one-third of this project remaining to be completed.

In search of the old Kurume hybrids, Mr. Galle contacted Mr. Oliver F. Ames of Boston, son of the late J. S. Ames. Mr. Ames related his concern for the collection and his desire to keep it intact and available for public display. After mutual visits, Mr. Ames offered the collection to Callaway Gardens.

The Callaway Gardens staff is proud to add the excellent collection of the Ames azaleas to its present display. This year, the plants will be maintained in the nursery area; they will be permanently recorded in the Gardens' files; and labeled as the "J. S. Ames Azaleas". The first showing of the tree form or standard azaleas will take place in the greenhouses in the late winter of 1973. The hardy varieties of the Ames azaleas will be planted in permanent beds in the Overlook area, near the azalea bowl. In addition to the azaleas, a group of seedling. grown Malaysian Rhododendrons were included in the Ames' Collection. The seed of these was received from Dr. George Taylor, a former director of the Kew Gardens of England.

Callaway Gardens is a unique resort-recreational complex located in the piney woods area of western Georgia, just 80 miles southwest of Atlanta. The gardens have not only been widely publicized for their many varied recreational facilities, but have been received as a source of beauty and inspiration by all who behold them.