By Norman Winter
There is nothing subtle about the color red, and red Encore Azaleas may be just what you need to inject excitement and passion into the landscape.
Encore® Azalea is the perfect place to get started, as there are now six blazing-red selections, bringing the total Encore series to an incredible 31 varieties – that’s 31 azaleas that don’t just bloom in the spring but repeat throughout the year.
The newest to debut is Autumn Bonfire™. The name itself conjures visions of warmth and fiery flames of color in the garden. Autumn Bonfire™ is dwarf, or compact, perfect for today’s garden. It reaches 3 feet tall with a spread of 3 ½ feet. The blossoms are semi-double and a true saturated red.
Autumn Bonfire™ not only gives you stimulating color in the garden, but it is also evergreen – retaining its bright green foliage. In other words, it provides the needed bones and structure in the landscape, even when not in bloom.
Red is certainly a rousing color that makes you take notice. Stop signs are red, fire trucks are red, Christmas decorations are red, and Valentine’s chocolates come in – that’s right – red boxes. Another new azalea you may want to try is Autumn Fire™. It has much the same habit, and color, but its semi-double blossoms are rich and velvety. As a bonus, the foliage offers extra garden interest as it ages to a purple-bronze in the winter.
These new azaleas will look picturesque clustered with taller evergreens like the berry-laden Robin™ Holly, LeAnn™ Cleyera, or the fall-blooming camellia sasanqua October Magic® Snow Camellia – all from the Southern Living® Plant Collection.
You may find yourself asking why these wonderful azaleas are called Autumn. The answer is simple – they bloom in the spring, and will surprise you throughout the growing season, culminating with a fall crescendo of blossoms.
So, as you are starting to think about the spring and fall landscape and perhaps contemplating that special Christmas gift or Valentine’s gift, why not choose the gift that will keep on giving? Your landscape transformed into a garden portrait will be a lasting reminder of your love. Autumn Bonfire™ and/or Autumn Fire™ Encore® Azaleas will make the perfect gift, and you can toss in a box of chocolates, too!
These azaleas are cold hardy from zones 6a-10b and perform best in organic-rich, well-drained soil. It’s been said the key to the green thumb is how brown it gets in soil preparation. Compost and organic matter improves tight, heavy soil to allow for best drainage.
Choose a site with 4- to 6-hours of direct sunlight. Partial sun gardens with high-shifting sunlight will also prove to be an optimal location. Plant curvy, informal sweeps or clusters of Autumn Bonfire™ and Autumn Fire™ as companions to taller evergreens, which will serve as the perfect backdrop for their dazzling color.
Need more tips? Here, you can find everything you need to know about growing and caring for these award-winning azaleas.