Monday, June 4, 2012

Why we love azaleas

Every spring we here at Baldwin's Nurseries are awash in a blaze of colour when the deciduous azaleas come into bloom. 

For a number of years, we've been developing our own plants, open-pollinated seedlings developed from two locally-bred varieties, 'Minas Gold' and 'Minas Flame'. These were developed at the Kentville Research Station by the late Dr. Donald Craig, who operated a rhodo and azalea breeding program for 30 years, until the early 1980s. 
All azaleas are rhododendrons, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Confused yet? Hopefully not. Azaleas are now classified in the botanical genus Rhododendron, which has a vast collection of subgenera (genera is the plural of genus). Azaleas hold their flowers in a different arrangement than do rhododendrons, and have only one stamen per flower petal, for a total of 5 stamens; rhododendrons hold their flowers in a more cone like arrangement, and have 2 stamens per petal, or at least 10 stamens per flower. 

 Most of the azaleas that do well in Atlantic Canada are deciduous, which drop their leaves in autumn. There are a few evergreen azaleas as well, although they aren't as tolerant of cold temperatures and are more inclined to damage from winter winds.
 Azaleas are acid-loving plants, well suited to the soils of much of Atlantic Canada. They will grow happily in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Remember to dig the planting hole twice as wide as it is deep, and plant your new azalea so that its rootball and soil come just to or slightly below the depth of the hole. Remember to water regularly, at least once a week or more often depending on whether we have any rainfall or not. This spring, it's been unnaturally dry in Nova Scotia, so we recommend watering twice a week, thoroughly, to help the plant establish its root system. You can also mulch around the plant to help keep soil moisture, but don't leave the plant in a wet area.
Most of the photos in this post are of our open pollinated seedlings, and as you can see there is a lot of variation in colour. 
 Some of the plants have red-tinged foliage as well as brilliant flowers.
 And excitingly, the foliage tends to turn rich reds to burgundy when autumn comes on. We think these are really special plants, and our customers think so too. We are keeping the prices low on these plants, so you can easily afford several, or half a dozen, or more!
We do also offer a number of named cultivars of deciduous azaleas, including several from the Arneson collection. This huge-flowered beauty is 'Arneson's Gem', seen here with an SLR camera lens cap beside it to show just how large the blooms are.

This has been a very busy and exciting spring so far at Baldwin's Nurseries, and we thank all our new and returning customers for your patronage. Please remember to check our main website, as well as our Facebook page, for updates and specials.