Monday, November 17, 2008

Help From Unexpected Quarters

We don't usually think of azaleas as being a big contributor to fall leaf color, but sometimes they are. This is azalea 'Pride's Pale Lilac'. I have no idea why this isn't a wildly popular garden shrub. It was hybridized many years ago by Joseph Gable, one of the pioneers of breeding rhododendrons and azaleas, whose goal was breeding hardy plants that would survive in Pennsylvania without coddling. Orlando Pride, another famous man in azalea and rhododendron breeding, bought hundreds of un-named azalea seedlings from Joseph Gable's nursery, and out of all the plants grown, this was by far the hardiest, and Pride named it 'Pale Lilac' (it's more often now called 'Pride's Pale Lilac'). It obviously has a lot of Azalea poukhanense in it.
I've grown it for perhaps 25 years, and it's only failed to bloom heavily in about three of those years; most years it is covered in large, funnel-shaped dusty lilac flowers (I was growing it north of here in a zone 4 garden for many years). The plant itself has taken -35 degrees with no damage. It rapidly forms a large 6 x 6 foot shrub, grows like a weed even in heavy clay soil, and forms offshoots like a strawberry; every year I dig up one or two new plants and move them elsewhere in the garden.
What do the big box stores sell instead... large-leaved (elepidote) rhododendrons and tender evergreen azaleas that all turn up their toes in their first Iowa winter. I guess that's how you get repeat business.
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What a beauty -- love a shrub that's just as beautiful in the fall as it is all summer long. :)
How nice it is to have recommendations of shrubs and plants from a fellow gardener in my same zone! :-) It sounds impressive in the Spring, and it is obviously beautiful in the Fall!
Nancy... it's a nice bonus.

Shady... I'll dig out a spring picture.

I always wanted to have some azaleas in my garden, but the soil here contains lime. Does anybody know whether this variety will tolerate lime?

greetins from Austria
sorry my spelling is not that good. I make a lot of mistakes when writing in English.
No... you're spelling might be a tad better than mine, so no problem. Pale Lilac grows here in the clay, which is slightly alkaline, so you could probably grow it (we have limestone outcroppings). I've heard azalea "Herbert' tolerates alkaline soils and is VERY hardy.
I'm getting one!
tedb... they are surprisingly hard to find. Some of the New England nurseries still carry it, but it pretty much disappeared from commerce.
It would have been great to know about 'Pride's Pale Lilac' azalea (if one could be found!) when we lived in Illinois. How sad that a plant with all these virtues is not common, Don.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
I have a beautiful azalea in the front of the house that was here when we bought it. But try as I might, I have yet to get another one growing here!
Well, I tried to find this azalea online in European nurseries. I didn't find it. It seems Joseph Gable's cultivars never made it to Europe or different names are used here.
There is a huge collection of Rhodos and azaleas available here- so guess I just have to start looking for "the right one". ;)

Annie... I've not seen it offered in twenty years.

Sylvana... they are touchy, for sure. When you read one of the rhody forums on the message boards, half the posts are about why their rhody is dying.

No... I bet you've got more choices than we do in Iowa.

Well, I'll have to find me one of these. Azaleas are so iffy here. I've got one that has survived one winter so far here. But prior to that, I lost two in one winter. And I love them so.
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