They say the best relationships are made up of two people that are quite the opposite! Although something the most frustrating of situations, those complimentary qualities are usually the best formula! One you might like to cook, the other might like to clean! Encore® Azalea is one of those perfect marriages, where each species was bringing something to the table, and there was no need for arguing about unwashed dishes!
Encore® Azalea really answers a gardening need too. It’s an Azalea that keeps on blooming, for peat’s sake! Rather than a flowering period of simply April, you get April to September with only the smallest of hiatus… count those months, won’t you just!
How was this plant created?
Plant Developer, Kip McConnell (who brought us last month’s Shrub of the Month too!), is always on the lookout for new, different and unusual plants and couldn’t resist an ever-blooming Azalea!
Robert E. “Buddy” Lee of Independence, Louisiana, is one of the most respected plant breeders and horticulturist in North America, with over 30 years’ experience in nursery management, breeding and propagation. His frustration at Azaleas and their short-lived blooming led him to research the whole family of species. That hunt took him to Taiwan, as he selected a few rare SUMMER and AUTUMN flowering species. He was hoping the marriage of the early and late would give an altogether longer blooming Azalea plant!
He was right. It took many years during the 80s, and tens of thousands of plants, but Robert finally cracked it with the ‘Encore’ Series! And, once he started, he couldn’t stop; he’s now made 33 varieties of ‘Encore’ to date! The Taiwanese blood also brought a better sun tolerance to the Azalea family, resulting in a plant you could use in a totally different way.
What’s different about this plant?
The Encore® Azalea Series are championed for their awesome long flowering, with buds bursting open from April to May, then again from July to September. They are also applauded for their sun tolerance and impact habit. You’re bound to shock the neighbours with a summer-flowering patio Azalea; they may even mistake it for a Petunia from a distance. Gosh! You know what they say, ‘your garden is a canvas’ so ‘plant your masterpiece’.
If all that wasn’t enough, they also steal the show during the winter too, with ruby-tinted foliage.
Where can you plant Encore® Azalea?
It’s an excellent, versatile plant, which looks fantastic in patio containers, shaped as hedging, or simply taking pride of place in the border. All they need is a good, acid, well-drained soil and a position in sun or shade, i.e. almost anywhere in the garden. When growing in pots, use a soil-based ericaceous potting mix. These plants do require an acidic soil. When planting into the border, try to avoid planting too deeply. You may also find a leaf mould around the base of the plant each spring will give them a nice boost!
Where can you buy this plant?
Encore® Azalea will soon be available in UK garden centres and by mail order here. In the US, find your stockists here.
How to grow Encore® Azalea:
Flowering time: April to May and July to September
Location: Borders, hedging, patio pots
Soil: Any acidic, well-drained soil
Light: Sunny, or shaded position
Hardy: Survives down to -10C!
Care: Prune to shape
Size: 75cm (30″) high x 75cm (30″) in spread
Plant of the Month is sponsored by Plantipp, a company based in The Netherlands who handle the introduction of new plants into Europe (with Concept Plants doing the same job in North America). The Encore® Azalea Series is raised by Robert E. “Buddy” Lee of Independence LA, and propagated by Kip McConnell of Southern Living Plants.
See every Patio Plant of the Month here.
Interesting that they flower twice.