'Festive' - A Beautiful Announcement of Spring
William F. Bedwell
What is your favorite azalea? Too many times garden visitors have asked that question and I've had a hard time answering. There are so many good ones for so many different reasons. But I've thought about it in recent years and decided my favorite evergreen azalea is the Glenn Dale, 'Festive'.
Why? Because 'Festive' makes me feel good every time it blooms. It heralds another spring flowering season with crisp color and delicate fragrance that characterizes the fresh, new beginning of spring. The tall evergreen plant stands up above the others - but not too wide - gracefully loaded with more flowers than most companions. The 2-inch, clean white flowers are cheerfully flecked with what I call dark purple red. Infrequently, a twig will sport to solid purple red, but I never let these grow to any extent. Old blooms don't wither and hang on for an ugly aftermath; they drop off while still pretty and make a beautiful display on the ground.
While 'Festive' may begin flowering early if the weather is unusually warm - sometimes in March (in late December of 1984) - it knows how to hold back most buds until late April after spring frosts, and it produces excess buds for this purpose. In more than fifteen years, it has rarely been frosted at close to full bloom stage. Flowering usually extends into early-midseason in my garden, 45 miles southwest of Richmond, VA
Hummingbirds, not seen for years, also chose 'Festive' as their favorite more than ten years ago, and they return each year.
Planted with 'Sherwood Orchid' (Sherwoodi), a reliable red-orchid-purple evergreen azalea, and a white dogwood ( Cornus florida ) in the background, the flowering of 'Festive' is an event I like to think about during the bleak months of winter. Ben Morrison chose the right name for this beautiful azalea.
Now, what is my favorite rhododendron?