An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

May 2, 2014

Home Grown Horticulture

     Azalea season has come late this year, I'll blame the hideously cold and long winter. However, it has resulted in most of them blooming at once, and many parts of Tidewater are now cloaked in a riot of pink, white and red. The garden where I work is deservedly famous for its azaleas, and it takes real effort not to get distracted by all the color. One group of azaleas unique to the area are the McDonald Hybrids, developed by Dr. Sandra McDonald at Le-Mac Nursery in nearby Hampton, Va. Her goal in a decades-long breeding program was to produce hardy plants that bloomed with flowers like those more typically found on florists' azaleas. Dr. McDonald produced over 20 named cultivars and many one-of-a-kind seedlings, most of which are planted at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Rhododendron 'Sandra's White Surprise' (2)

Rhododendron 'Salmon Sunrise' (1)

Rhododendron 'Rosy Frills' (7)

Rhododendron 'Rosy Frills' (6)

Rhododendron 'Rosy Frills' (2)

Rhododendron 'New Generation Red' 2 (1)

Rhododendron 'Hot Shot' x 'Hershey Red Tetra' (1)

Rhododendron 'Dreamsicle' (2)

Rhododendron 'Dream Sherbert' (4)

Rhododendron 'Double Pink #2' (5)

Rhododendron 'David's Choice' 2 (1)

Rhododendron 'Dainty Rose' x 'Yaeshojo' (3)

Rhododendron 'Blushing Angel' (3)

Rhododendron 'A78-8-11' (1)

     All of the McDonald Hybrid azaleas are evergreen, hardy to zone 7-8, and grow on compact plants.


  1. How stunningly beautiful! I remember how impressive and plentiful the Azaleas were in the woods when we took a vacation in Virginia--growing all around us in vibrant colors.

  2. Stunning, all of them. Some with round clusters like their Rhodie kin, others look like the wild cultivars from which they descend. Azalea season passed here some weeks back and was wonderful despite prolonged winter cold.

    Mr. Aaron Varnadoe of Colquitt, GA spent much of his life propagating and hybridizing native azaleas. The collection is at Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Newton. It is a glorious sight when natives bloom. Alabamense is my favorite.

  3. And I say, get distracted!
    This is the right time and you are certainly in the right place for it. You must have a very good camera; mine has a hard time with such reds.

  4. One of my favorites is Pinxter growing in the wild. I like its long eyelashes and subtle coloring. It was a surprise seeing it for the first time on a hike after moving down here.

  5. Quite a different definition of hardy than we have here. But we all know hardiness is relative.

  6. I wish I could grow these...just stunning

  7. Thanks for the azalea "fix." Most of ours were eaten by the deer this winter, but a few random blooms hidden from the deer mouths have survived. Nothing like normal, though, so I needed this. Thanks again!

  8. The McDonald Hybrids are indeed luscious. A very stunning collection!

  9. mercy mercy mercy...feast for the eyes

  10. We are behind here as well by almost a month. I have come to love azaleas. They make me think of party dresses. The long winter was difficult, but it must be wonderful to have them all putting on a show at once.

  11. Gorgeous azaleas! Ours have opened yet, but I enjoyed this preview. I smiled over your dual religion holiday card. Sorry to be so late to visit. I've been out of town.

  12. I've spent a fair share of time enjoying the azaleas in full bloom at Norfolk Botanical Gardens. It's an incredible experience. Loved the photos!