Enhance Your Small Garden with Encore® Azaleas

By Norman Winter, ‘The Garden Guy’

The garden was considered small – it had an 18-foot-long border featuring a gentle curve that was 6-feet wide on the ends and 8-feet at the center arc. Against the wall, or rear of the border, Autumn Jewel™ Encore® Azaleas with iridescent pink-lavender flowers were planted. Layered in front were compact, pristine white Autumn Angel™ Encores®

Halfway down the border at the center of the arc was the focal point – an October Magic® Orchid™ Camellia. Flanking the camellia and slightly to the front were two Purple Daydream® Dwarf Loropetalums from the Southern Living® Plant Collection. The bed finished repeating the layered look of Autumn Jewel™ and Autumn Angel™ Encore® Azaleas.

When it comes to choosing plants, small gardens may seem daunting – especially for those who love azaleas. With Encore® Azaleas, you have an abundance of choices that let you enjoy months of incredible azalea blooms – whether you are planting a small front yard (mentioned above), a courtyard, or a New Orleans- or Savannah-style hidden garden.

Just because you are working with a small garden doesn’t mean you are relegated to only dwarf specimens. The determining factor is actually the size of your planting space or bed. If you are the designer of the space, know that creating depth opens the door to artistic opportunities like the garden above.

Dwarf Encore® Azaleas may easily be maintained at heights of about 2- to 3-feet and widths of 3- to 4-feet. Intermediates are similar in width, but a little taller with maintained heights of 4- to 5-feet. This would suggest beds of 6- to 8-feet in depth offer the best opportunities for layering both tall and dwarf Encore® Azaleas, as well adding choice companion shrubs.

The straight and narrow 36-inch bed is sometimes the hand we are dealt. While this might seem like the worst-case scenario, know it, too, can be turned into a living piece of panoramic art. Select your favorite color of a dwarf Encore® variety and begin to plant in groups of three. Perhaps you might choose the fiery red Autumn Bonfire™ – our newest selection. 

Plant the first three Autumn Bonfire™ 3-feet apart. Next, consider planting three Southern Living® Plant Collection ‘Soft Caress’ Mahonia 4- to 5-feet apart from one another and the Autumn Bonfire™ azaleas. This outstanding plant adds a fern-like texture to the bed, maximizing year-round interest along with winter yellow flowers that bring in the honeybees. Repeat another group of Autumn Bonfire™ azaleas. Finish the bed with some of your favorite annuals like begonias, or try one of our favorites – EverColor® ‘Everillo’ Carex from the Southern Living® Plant Collection. Its incredible chartreuse, fine-textured leaves will not disappoint. 

In the end, you are the artist. Just know there are 16 dwarf or compact Encore® Azaleas to go along with 15 intermediate varieties. You’ll find them across the entire color spectrum – red, pink, purple, white, as well as bi-colored. They will bloom in spring, repeating in summer, and following with a crescendo in the fall. They have become the azaleas to which all others are compared. Whether your garden is an estate, or a small hidden gem, Encore® Azaleas will enhance its beauty.