Chauncey Delos Beadle
Frank Mossman M.D., Portland, OR
Reprinted from Portland Chapter Newsletter
The 'Azalea Man' of the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina, assembled the largest number of American native azaleas anywhere on a 30 acre tract in the Biltmore forest. As superintendent of the vast estate, Dr. Beadle had the wherewithal to travel thousands of miles from Virginia to Florida and west to Texas for more than ten years, collecting herbarium specimens, classifying and transplanting outstanding horticultural finds. Numerous friends also contributed to the vast assemblage. In 1950 there were over 45,000 plants. A few outstanding clones have come to the Northwest under Biltmore numbers and are available at some local nurseries. Interested gardeners may get early summer cuttings of a few Biltmore numbers from the author. One north westerner visited the Biltmore Estate recently, reporting that these now mature plants are impressive indeed, but no cuttings permitted!
Dr. Beadle's planting method: the beds were excavated to a depth of 18 inches, then filled with a mixture of equal parts topsoil, sand and peat, finally mulching the plants with three inches of pulverized oak leaves yearly. All the eastern American azalea species grow well in our Northwest in acid soil with ample well-rotted organic mixture.
Chauncey Beadle went to Biltmore as a 23-year old Cornell graduate, class of 1889, and remained for 60 years. The azalea hobby began at age 62. He died in 1950, leaving the azalea collection as a legacy unmatched at the time in size, variety and excellence. His many herbarium specimens are available for study at the National Arboretum Herbarium, Washington, D.C. There are more than 40 paintings of some of these azaleas by Mrs. Lucia Porcher Johnson, formerly of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; these will be on view at one of our Chapter's autumn meetings this year.
Dr. Beadle's favorite species was R. calendulaceum , which slowly makes a large plant with many showy flowers; various clones are seen in colors from yellow through orange to red and even creamy white, according to one report. Only a few species of Eastern azaleas are seen at the Portland Chapter shows because of their blooming time. R. canadense, a small stoloniferous shrub with tiny flowers, purple, lavender or white, early and very cold-tolerant, is usually seen at our April Show. R. austrinum with small yellow to orange flowers born in profusion on vigorous shrubs thrives here and is occasionally at our May Show. This one is heat-tolerant and so are some of its hybrids according to information from Gulf Coast friends. R. vaseyi has larger deep to pale pink, even white, flowers on vigorous bushes, appears at most May Shows and is grown by many rhodie buffs here. R. roseum is another deciduous azalea, very pretty, very fragrant, occasionally exhibited. Most species bloom a little later here, but many of them thrive and bloom at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in late May and early June.