Thursday, October 23, 2008

Encore azalea 'Autumn Belle'

A trip to one of the local big box stores recently resulted in two impulse purchases which promise to make the next few weeks even more enjoyable. Here's the first of them, one of the new and much advertised Encore azaleas. These are azaleas bred to bloom off and on throughout the season. Their blooming schedule is probably like that of the old Hybrid Perpetual roses: a big splash in the spring, bloom off and on throughout the summer, then another splash in the autumn. Or is it? Time will tell.

These Encore azaleas are available in a narrow range of colors in the magenta-blue red range; there are also white-flowered sorts. Are any of them fragrant? Fragrance is not mentioned in the advertising.

The one I bought is 'Autumn Belle', a sort of warm salmon pink with red-pink spots. At the edges of the petals are white areas, which look as if they had been splashed and streaked on. The resulting pattern is striking and reminds me of the patterns caused by color breaking virus in some plants, and it also reminds me of the color patterns seen in some of the azaleas grown for winter bloom indoors as houseplants.

One use for this handsome plant immediately comes to mind: pair it with the autumn blooming camellias. Camellias and azaleas in the garden during October and November: that's going out in style!

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