In spring, many gardens are filled with azaleas in colours such as pink, white, mauve or red. However, a wider range of colours can be found in some cool climate gardens. Peter Valder explores several different colours.
The ‘Mollis’ azalea is a beautiful golden yellow colour and also comes in other striking colours such as orange and salmon red. It was bred from varieties introduced from Japan and China.
The ‘Mollis’ azalea was later crossed with wild azaleas from North America which have honeysuckle shaped flowers. The resulting varieties are called ‘Knap Hill’ and ‘Exbury’ and have flaring flowers.
These azaleas are all deciduous – they lose leaves in winter, which indicates that they like cooler climates.
Another plant which is often found in cooler climate gardens is Rhododendron augustinii. This looks like an azalea, which is also a rhododendron, but is from a slightly different group. It is a vivid blue and comes from western China. Rhododendron augustinii has also been used to breed a range of hybrids in similar colours.
Although these azaleas can be prone to lace bug and petal blight, with some care they will flourish in cooler climates
Cost and availability:
Mollis azaleas including Knap Hill and Exbury hybrids and Rhododendron augustinii are available from nurseries in NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia where they can be ordered by contacting a large garden centre. Cost: 15cm (6″) pots retail for $8-$10; 20cm (8″) pots retail for $16-$20.
Or consult The Aussie Plant Finder 1997/98 by Margaret Hibbert (Florilegium, 1997). ISBN 0958649898. Contact your local bookstore or Florilegium on (02) 9555 8589. Rrp $19.95.
For more information on growing azaleas, consult Growing Azaleas by Allan Evans (Kangaroo Press, 1994, rrp $16.95) or Growing Rhododendrons by Richard Francis (Kangaroo Press, 1997, rrp $39.95).