Growing The Greenwood Azaleas
Back in Loveland, Colorado in 1962 when my husband, Dallas, called to tell me he'd found the perfect place to move to I questioned his sanity but quickly gave notice at my workplace and began the packing process. As the wife of a truck driver who drove coast to coast and sometimes didn't get home more than every two months for a few days, I was ready to go anyplace where he would be home every night. Corvallis, Oregon sounded like a nowhere place to me. No matter - off we went pulling a U-Haul trailer.
Having spent my entire life in North Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado, I was totally unprepared for the sheer beauty of this wonderfully green place. The trip from Bend to Sweet Home was truly awesome. Now here they grew big trees!
Not all was wonderful in this green place, we learned the meaning of the word "rain" and hung up our ice skates that first winter. Then spring came and we saw rhododendrons and azaleas blooming for the first time, an even more impressive sight than the Douglas Fir trees. Getting hooked on collecting and growing rhododendrons and my beloved azaleas was super easy and today we grow several hundred cultivars.
One of the many hybrid groups that we have been growing are the Greenwood Azaleas developed by Bill Guttormsen of Canby, Oregon. Our original plants are now about 9 to 12 years old. As a group they have proven to be excellent shrubs in our area.
Our major problem is early fall and late spring frosts and for the last few years we have experienced many of them. This past spring we had the poorest floral display we have ever had - caused by the hard freeze in early October of 1985 that was preceded by unseasonably warm weather that kept the plants in a state of growth. Of all the evergreen azalea groups we are growing, we saw the least damage (bark split and die-back) on the Greenwoods although we lost the majority of the buds on them. The previous spring we had another hard frost the day before Mother's Day and the open flowers were lost, but on the Greenwoods the unopened buds and the later blooming plants continued on as though nothing had happened.
Cold winters do not seem to be as big a problem, providing the cold is more gradual. Some of the Greenwood Azaleas have been reported as having withstood temperatures much lower than the 0F. listed in the registrations.
While doing some research for a program I was giving to the Northwest Azalea Society of America Chapter, I learned from Bill Guttormsen that the late Dr. Schroeder was testing some Greenwood Azaleas in Evansville, Indiana. He had written that during the winter of 1976-77 it got down to -26F. and that 'Dolores', 'Greenwood Orchid', 'Can-Can', 'Greenwood Pink', 'Jan' and 'Katie' had survived. 'Dolores' was totally unhurt and bloomed as usual, while 'Greenwood Orange' and all of the reds with 'Ward's Ruby' in their parentage were killed outright. After the December 24, 1983 temperature of -18F. along with a 60 mph wind he added 'Tina' to the list of cultivars that had withstood the cold. The outcome of this type of testing brings to mind the well known phrase, "The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat". How sweet the success must have been!
We are growing about 40 of Bill Guttormsen's Greenwood Azaleas now and some of our favorites are as follows:
'Sherry', for clarity of color, is one of the finest reds I have ever seen with its non fading hose-in-hose flower. An early bloomer, it has a low rounded habit and is somewhat slow growing, about two feet wide and slightly less in height at 12 years. The fall color is a fantastic maroon. I cannot pass the pond area it has recently been transplanted to without pausing to admire the color. 'Su-Lin' and 'Crimson Crest' are also good reds from this same cross [('Louise Gable' x 'Ward's Ruby') x 'James Gable']; with the same fall color and similar size. A taller and larger growing red is 'Blazon'. It takes some time to really appreciate 'Blazon', but when it begins to put out multiple flower buds, what a show!
Photo by V. Hunter
'Greenwood Orange' is one of the most orange evergreen azaleas we have. Its double orange-red flowers open in mid May against glossy, dark green foliage. In the fall the foliage turns a deep bronze color. 'Orange Sherbet', while less intense in color, is one of the newer plants that also looks very promising.
'Maria Elena' is a large double pink blooming here in early June. 'Maria Elena' is very compact and has a mounding habit - it's now about two feet tall by three feet wide. The flowers have very good substance and excellent lasting quality.
'Pink Cloud' with its even larger double flowers blooms earlier and is more upright in habit. The large and glossy foliage turns bronze to red in an exposed area in autumn.
'Tat,' named for Bill's beautiful daughter Kathy, is outstanding. Plant habit is low, very compact and wider than its height with large double pink flowers in mid May.
The very hardy 'Dolores' is now three feet wide and slightly taller. It blooms in mid May and is a double deep pink.
In the rose-red colors we especially like 'Tara', 'Torchlight' and 'Jet Fire'. All three are now about three feet wide, 'Tara' about two feet tall and the other two slightly less. 'Jet Fire' has a single flower with a darker blotch, it is also slightly fragrant. Torchlight', a frilled hose-in-hose, is the most compact of the three, retaining a perfect circle in outline. All three of these plants have spectacular fall coloration ranging from orange to deep red.
'Tat' fall foliage
Photo by Val Knox
'Sleigh Bells' and 'Cloud Cap' are single, white, low and compact plants. 'Cloud Cap' blooms in mid May and 'Sleigh Bells' in late May. Both have performed very well here. Some of Bill's new releases that we saw last spring for the first time are really great looking whites. We were especially smitten by 'Snow Mound', a white hose-in-hose, and 'Winter Hawk' with its contrasting dark stamens.
In the lavender to purple range are many lovely things; 'Royal Robe', 'Tenino', 'Katie' and 'Royal Crown' are a few. 'Royal Robe', 'Tenino' and 'Katie' are all orchid hose-in-hose from Bill's cross of 'Helen Close' x 'Purple Splendor'. 'Katie' blooms in mid May and is another of the plants that Dr. Schroeder rated as hardy to -18 to -26F. Both 'Royal Robe' and 'Tenino' bloom in late May and are low and very compact, with 'Tenino' being the more spreading of the two. 'Royal Crown' is a deep dark purple semi-double, hose-in-hose out of one of Bill's recent crosses. It has a dwarf and spreading habit and has made a big impact on all who have seen it.
Photo by Bill Guttormsen
There are many, many more Greenwood Azaleas and it looks like some of the very best are just about to be released. 'Pink Petals', 'Royal Crown', Nancy', 'June', 'Rose Parade', 'Diablo', 'Lisa', 'Misty Pink', 'Candy', 'Pat', 'Accent' and 'Laser' are some of the new plants that have been propagated by members of the Northwest Chapter of the ASA. These will be available for the first time at the 9th ASA Convention and Annual Meeting in Eugene, Oregon, April 27-30, 1987. There will also be plant displays featuring the Greenwood Azaleas. Come a few days earlier on your way to the ARS National Convention in Eugene and see for yourself, why we in the Northwest, are so taken with the Greenwood Azaleas!
Photo by Bill Guttormsen
Henrietta Hass, along with her husband, Dallas, and daughter, Val, operates Hass Nursery at Philomath, Oregon. The mail order nursery specializes in azaleas and rhododendrons and is the outgrowth of Henrietta's hobby of collecting.