By Norman Winter
There is nothing quite like the change in seasons. Summer has yielded its last challenge of heat and humidity, and all of a sudden you feel it – temperatures are lower, football is in the air and the azaleas are starting to bloom. At least the azaleas are starting to bloom if you have Encore®Azaleas, the ones that repeat, and have become the variety to which all others are compared.
Thus, when football season and azalea bloom are referenced together, it’s not an oxymoron, but a reality. If you aren’t growing the number one azalea choice in the market, don’t fret, because now is the best time to plant Encore®Azaleas and all other trees and shrubs.
By planting them now, we can have a dramatic increase in root growth prior to next spring. Even though top growth is winding down, roots continue to develop in the cooler 50-degree days ahead.
When new leaf growth begins in the spring, the root system will already be established and able to supply the plants’ requirements. In fact, research indicates that planting now will give your plants almost a full growing season’s advantage over planting next spring.
Each and every Encore®Azalea has the first name Autumn, because not only do they bloom in the spring, but crescendo in the fall with a dazzling display before resting for winter. There are 31 Encore®Azalea selections, which offer the fall landscape that sizzle that only an azalea can do.
They are classified as either early-, mid- or late-fall bloomers, giving you the opportunity to extend your season right up until the date winter arrives. Thirteen of these selections are considered early-fall bloomers and are available in pink, purple, white, red and even one of our special bi-colored selections.
Creative combinations can be designed by planting them in bold drifts or informal sweeps of individual colors next to each other. An example might be an informal sweep of purple Autumn Amethyst™next to a sweep of pink Autumn Jewel™.
Eight of the early-fall Encores are dwarf, and while you can certainly plant them in informal sweeps, they also lend themselves to being layered in front of the taller varieties. An example might be choosing one of the white early bloom Encore®Azaleas, Autumn Angel™or Autumn Ivory™, both dwarf, and letting them dazzle in front of the purple Autumn Amethyst™ or one of the taller pink selections like Autumn Carnation™, Autumn Jewel™and Autumn Empress™.
There are also two pink dwarf selections, Autumn Coral™and Autumn Sundance™, and three red dwarf varieties Autumn Fire™, Autumn Embers™and Autumn Sunset™, allowing your artistic creativity to really come to fruition by combining with other blooming shrubs like camellias. Spring is typically the season known for partnerships of camellias and azaleas, but not any more thanks to the fall-blooming Encore®Azaleas and the Southern Living®Plant Collection’s offering of fall-blooming camellias.
Imagine the dwarf red Autumn Fire™, one of the newest Encore®Azaleas, blooming in front or adjacent to the white flowered camellia sasanqua Diana™. Of course, pink and purple Encore®Azalea colors would look equally stunning. The Southern Living®Plant Collection doesn’t just offer you fall-blooming Camellia sasanquas but also a Camellia japonica that usually begins its bloom in late September.
Early Wonder®Camellia japonica opens the door to options you may have only dreamed about. This lavender formal-double is the earliest Camellia japonica in the market and has been seen starting its bloom progression every September in Savannah, Ga. Reaching 8-feet-tall, you’ll love the possibilities of growing it with early-fall blooming Encore®Azaleas whether they are white, pink or purple. It really can look like spring in September and October!
The fall landscape design options are only limited by your imagination. One thing is for certain – you’ll feel like you scored the winning touchdown once you start growing Encore®Azaleas. You’ll quickly see why they all have the first name Autumn. For more information, see the Encore Azalea Bloom Times Chart.