The Azalea Border

by Nancy Rose
May 21, 2015

The Azalea Border

Rhododendron atlanticum flowers

The fragrant flowers of coast azalea (R. atlanticum).

The Arboretum’s Azalea Border is awash in flowers right now. This extensive border planting stretches along much of Meadow Road and includes many other interesting plant species in addition to numerous azalea (Rhododendron spp.) species and cultivars. The deciduous azaleas now in bloom include several North American natives:

Coast azalea (R. atlanticum) grows natively in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern coastal states. Their pale pink to white flowers are not only beautiful to look at but also provide olfactory bliss with their sweet-and-spicy fragrance.

Alabama azalea (R. alabamense) grows in open woodlands within small areas of Alabama and several other southern states. It bears large clusters of fragrant white flowers that have long, tubular bases and strongly exserted stamens (that means that the stamens extend well beyond the petals).

Ghent hybrid azalea

The striking hose-in-hose (double) flowers of the Ghent hybrid azalea ‘Narcissiflora’.
(photos: Nancy Rose)

Pinxterbloom azalea (R. periclymenoides) has a wide native range in the eastern U.S, including Massachusetts. It has large clusters of rose, pink, or white flowers and is one of the parent species of the Ghent hybrid azaleas [PDF], some specimens of which are also blooming in the Azalea Border now.

Many other colorful azaleas are currently blooming and more will flower in the coming weeks. For a list of Rhododendron bloom sequence in the Azalea Border see this article [PDF] by Donald Wyman (note that he used the no longer accepted name R. nudiflorum for the Pinxterbloom azalea).

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