QBARS - v33n4 R. 'Coccinea Speciosa'

R. 'Coccinea Speciosa'
Tom McGuire, Portland, OR

R. 'Coccinea Speciosa'
R. 'Coccinea Speciosa'
Photo by Tom McGuire

R. 'Coccinea Speciosa' is an old Ghent Azalea. It is still one of the most beautiful of all deciduous azaleas, in my opinion, although it was originated in the early part of the 19th century by a man named Mortier, who was a baker by trade, and lived in Ghent, France. Monsieur Mortier, for his time, was very innovative He force-bloomed R. calendulaceum and R. viscosum to coincide with the blooming time of R. luteum and produced hybrids from these three species. He later introduced R. roseum and R. nudiflorum .
At about the same time in England, a man named Gowen was making similar crosses and creating a related group of plants. The two groups were later intercrossed by other hybridists to give us the Ghent Azaleas as we know them today.
'Coccinea Speciosa' must be one of the earliest and most primitive of the Ghent Azaleas since it surely received, at least, a great majority of its genes from R. calendulaceum . Many authorities claim it to be only a very superior form of this species, and it seems to identify almost perfectly, with fine bright green foliage growing in firm, twiggy tiers, and blooms profusely in late May with vivid orange flowers. It is an excellent specimen plant growing eventually to 8 or 9 feet. Autumn colors are an additional bonus.
I find that 'Coccinea Speciosa' propagates with difficulty, and consequently, is not popular with professional growers. Only a small percentage of cuttings will root - some years, none whatever.
As a lazy gardener I like another trait of the plant. It never sets seed. The flowers and seed pods simply dry and fall off. With the vast number of blooms, dead-heading would be a very tedious chore.