Azalea – A Lightbulb in the Garden

Spring is in full swing now and gardens are starting to erupt into life at the moment. This is one of my favourite times of the year in the garden as every time you go outside there seems to be a new discovery. Be ita spring bulb coming into flower or the subtler milestone of a shrub breaking into leaf. These little moments in the garden’s lifecycle really fill a gardener’s heart with optimism for the gardening year ahead.

For me there are a few plants in particular that announce spring’s arrival in the garden. One plant that really sings spring’s arrival is azaleas. Over the past few days, several visitors to the CountryLife Garden Centrehave been commenting on the vibrant burst of colour the azaleas have been adding to the displays around the garden centre

Colour in a garden

Because of their vibrant flower colours,I always think that azaleas are just like a light bulb in the garden. When they finally burst in to flower each year the entire garden seems brighter and more cheerful thanks to their addition.

Azaleas bloom on the campus of Wake Forest University on Thursday, April 22, 2010.

In the past azaleas were considered a tricky plant to grow but this is really not the case.That is as long as you are aware of the right conditions for growing azaleas you can get fantastic results.

Azalea or rhododendron?

Azaleas are officially listed underRhododendron, but many garden centresstill call them azaleas. Azaleas areusuallysmaller than rhododendrons, and they have finer foliage.

Tips for growing Azalea

  • Azalea plants will not tolerate alkaline soil and much prefer a rich acidic soil with a PH level from 5-6. pH
  • A gardener should us a PH Tester test their soils so they know exactly what they are working before investing in plants like azaleas
  • If you don’t have the right soil conditions in your garden, it is very easy to alter your soil to create a better growing environment using special acidic compost. Most gardeners need to grow them in containers full of ericaceous compost.
  • Ericaceous Plant feeds will also lower the pH of your soil. Itis important to remember to top it up regularly or you will lose the effects of it in the soil

Types of Azalea

There are two main types of azalea that you will come across in most gardens -Japanese azaleas and deciduous azaleas. Japanese azaleas are the first to come into flower in spring while deciduous azaleas flower slightly later in spring going into early summer.

Deciduous azaleas also grow much taller, reaching up to 4 foot at maturity. The flowers on deciduous azaleas also tend to be much more intense in colour. The flowers are much more vivid and come in almost neon shades.

There are many different varieties of Azalea

If you are looking for a deciduous azalea to include in your garden Oriental Queen is a good one to consider with its bright orange flowers. Or if you are want something a bit more subtle, Silver Slipper has brilliant blush white flowers that can have an equally as good impact on a flower bed in spring.

Silver Sword is a great Japanese variety that has tremendous variegated leaves with a creamy edge to the leaves. The flowers come in a bright pinkish red colour.

Anyone who is looking for a good compact variety should look forAnouk. It would work very well planted in a rockery which is where I have one planted in my own garden. The one I have at home has been planted for a few years now and is still only around a foot tall,making it a great choice if you are limited forspace.