By Norman Winter, ‘The Garden Guy’
Encore® Azalea planting season is here, and garden centers are stocked to the hilt. We’d like to help you select companion plants that make the home landscape a true garden.
Choosing companion plants can sometimes cause a little fear and trepidation. Relax – with Encore Azaleas, it’s really hard to get it wrong.
If your landscape is a blank canvas, then consider choosing dark green evergreens. Not only can they serve as the bones or structure of your garden, but also as a backdrop for your favorite colors of Encore® Azaleas.
Hollies are the workhorses of the landscape, and the Southern Living® Plant Collection features seven different varieties. Ranging from dwarf to tall, like Christmas Jewel® Holly, variegated, such as Golden Oakland™, or offering prolific berries, like Robin™ Holly, you are certain to find one that suits your needs.
Cleyera is another great evergreen shrub or small tree that would partner well in a garden with hollies, while serving as a companion to Encore Azaleas. Many gardeners are stunned when they first see a mature Bronze Beauty™ or LeAnn™ Cleyera. Glossy deep green and bronze-colored foliage on a 10- to 12-foot shrub will take your breath away, while your Encore Azaleas dazzle below. You’ll also find beautiful new variegation in the other Southern Living® Plant Collection cleyera varieties Romeo™ and Juliet™.
Variegated foliage artfully creates different textures in your garden. Imagine an informal drift of seven or nine red Autumn Bonfire™ azaleas, or maybe the award-winning purple Autumn Royalty™. While their blooms are exhibiting unimaginable beauty, the look would be even more riveting if grown next to a sweep of one of the incredible variegated abelias like Miss Lemon™, ‘Kaleidoscope’ or Confetti®.
Each of these Southern Living® Plant Collection abelia varieties offers colorful variegated foliage that lasts all year. Glowing with white to light pink blooms in spring, these shrubs are a winning addition no matter your favorite Encore® color.
Texture or color will be unsurpassed if you partner your Encore® Azaleas with one of the carex from the EverColor® series. The fine-leafed texture and bright chartreuse of ‘Everillo’ or gold from ‘Everoro’ will give absolute magic to all Encore® Azalea plantings, whether used in the foreground or alongside as a cluster. Seven choices of color and variegation will amaze when grown with your Encore® Azalea.
The most obvious choice for Encore® companion plants would be other azaleas, or more specifically, other Encore® Azalea varieties in differing bloom colors or heights. Planting taller, intermediate Encores® in the rear of the border and compact selections to the front allows you to create a sensational layered panorama.
If you want to add a unique specimen, you could plant a few native azaleas. Sometimes called Florida Flame azaleas, native azaleas only bloom in spring, but their blazing orange and yellow blooms are stunning. Southern Living® Plant Collection offers two selections that will tell you all you need to know just by their names – Solar Flare™ and Solar Glow™ Sunbow® Azaleas. Bearing large flowers with flaming colors, they’re guaranteed to electrify your spring landscape. Purple and white Encores, or a combination of both – plus the Sunbow® Azalea selections – are sure to bring out the cameras.
The key to matchmaking Encore® Azalea varieties with companion plants is to select plants that have similar exposure, soil and water needs. Soon, you’ll find you’ve created a beautiful garden full of friends!