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On Gardening: Solar azaleas create a heavenly storm in your landscape

April 2, 2018

 

Solar Glow is a deciduous azalea reaching 6 to 8 feet tall boasting incredible orange shades.

Solar storms have been in the news the past couple of weeks in an almost, Ďthe sky is falling,í scenario but it can be happening in your landscape, too, thanks to new Solar Flare and Solar Glow azaleas!

As spring arrives in the south first, I can tell you landscapes are lighting up with what many consider one of the best of the best azalea bloom seasons ever. This dazzling show is thanks in part to the Rhododendron austrinum or Florida flame azaleas and their hybrids like Solar Flare and Solar Glow.

If you havenít heard of Solar Flare and Solar Glow yet itís OK; they are another incredible creation of Buddy Lee in Independence Louisiana, a horticultural hero who also brought us the Encore series of repeat blooming azaleas. Youíll find them both in the Southern Living Plant Collection and Sunset Western Garden Collection.

Solar Flare and Solar Glow azaleas will mature at about 6 to 8 feet in height and 4 to 5 feet wide. They are cold hardy from zones 5 to 9 (-20) meaning much of the country can revel in their spring blooming beauty. Revel I did, with those planted outside my office when I was with the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens in Savannah.

There is a sense of panic at my new house in Hamilton, Ga., and probably a lot of other places too as homeowners see azaleas blooming at the neighbors and realize we all need them, too. Iím talking I want Solar Azaleas, Encores, natives and other groups.

Azaleas must have very well drained, organic-rich, acidic soil. When we get heavy rain, we want the water to drain freely. This is such a critical issue that many experts even suggest planting them high so to speak where the top one inch of the rootball is above the soil profile, and add loose, organic material around it.

Azaleas are very shallow rooted plants. Considering that you are also planting high, in loose soil, you realize that azaleas are prone to drying out, especially those newly planted. Supplemental water will be needed. Mulch, which conserves moisture is an absolute.

Youíll love the shocking colors of both the Solar Flare and Solar Glow azaleas and relish the fact that they also have a honeysuckle fragrance and bring in butterflies and the first returning hummingbirds. You have to admit that is pretty hard to beat.

You might be wondering will orange whether a Solar azalea or Florida flame clash with the other colors in the spring garden and all I can say is no. No sight is more stunning than the orange azaleas combined with dogwoods, Louisiana or woodland phlox and purple azaleas like Autumn Royalty. Do this, and you will have created the Kodak moment.

No shrub can give your landscape the WOW factor like azaleas and now is the time to prepare the beds and get several planted. And, by spreading our selections around from deciduous natives and their hybrids like the Solar series to evergreen repeat blooming Encores we can have a layered look in the garden ensuring our spring bloom extends all the way to fall.

 

 


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