Thursday, 19 May 2016

Star Spring Plant - Azalea

There should be room in every garden for an azalea. The flowers completely cover the plant, usually blocking out the views of foliage altogether so that you see a pink (or yellow or red or mauve) mass, that really stands out at a time when many other plants are only just getting going. Most are evergreen too, so they look good all year long.

The trouble is they need acid (ericaceous) soil, and if the soil in your garden is not acidic you have to put a bit of effort in to keep azaleas happy. You could grow them in pots of ericaceous compost, but all except the dwarf varieties will get pot bound within a few years. However, azaleas lush green foliage and tight, compact form, combined with the way they become completely covered in bright, showy blooms at this time of year, make them worth a try. The one pictured at its peak is in the lovely woodland gardens at Picton Castle in West Wales. As you can see the foliage is almost completely obscured by the bright red flowers.

I have two azaleas. One stands in a pot of ericaceous compost on the patio, adding early season colour just outside the back door. The other is in a Japanese style area, on the bank of a dry stream, amongst other evergreens and oriental looking shrubs. To give it a good chance I dug a good size hole before planting and filled it with ericaceous compost. I have also fed it with azalea feed on a regular basis to maintain the acidity of its root ball area. It's not as magnificent as the one at Picton, but in a few years time, who knows? It does help create that Japanese feel, and injects a wonderful splash of colour in April and May.

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