My Lemon Lights Azalea Blooms Whenever it Pleases
October 31, 2011
Allan in Azaleas, Flowering Shrubs, Rhododendrons, evergreen shrubs, flowering shrubs, glossy foliage, lemon Light, vivid colored flowers

It’s no secret, I love rhododendrons and azaleas. Watching them bloom in early summer gives me goose bumps. Part of the excitement lies in the fact that this family of vivid, lush-flowering plants did not grow in my area when I was young. I could only drool over them in garden magazines, catalogues, and photo journals such as Life Magazine and National Geographic.

The available varieties during the 1950’s and 60’s were too tender for my climate. Those that I can grow today ,because they are bred to withstand the winters of USDA Zone 4, are relatively new to my area. Nevertheless, I still bear the emotional scars of rhodo-depravation and when confronted with an assortment of blooming varieties at the nursery, I go berserk, not knowing which variety to select first.

Two additional factors that bring these plants close to heart are the luxurious, glossy texture of the rich, green foliage in summer and the intense, vivid, neon-like shades of the flowers that appear in late spring - early summer. No one in my growing zone is immune to the power of these colors. Yet, I have learned that in warmer climates, where this plant is ubiquitous, some gardeners have become indifferent to it. I suppose that is what happens when one experiences too much of a good thing.

Not having had any experience in growing rhodos and azaleas in my youth, I am learning about them as time goes on. Fortunately, my friends and family in Boston, who have been enjoying these plants for generations, have been able to give me the guidance I need. I have watched them vigorously trim their mature rhodos down to half their size with no apparent damage to the plants health, appearance, or its ability to re bloom. Now, that’s saying a lot about an ornamental shrub.

The root system of these plants grows horizontally and close to the surface of the earth, which makes transplanting easier than other ornamnetal shrubs. In addition, they take quit well to uprooting and re planting, even though the foliage may appear traumatized during the following season. They prefer an acid soil, which is not a problem in my area. However, when in doubt, I will spread a layer of cedar mulch around the shrubs, in autumn,  to supplement the acidity in the soil. Homeowners need to be cautious about placement in the garden because the roots of vigorously spreading mature cedar trees, that might grow nearby, will choke out the roots of rhodos and azaleas and cause them to die.

The one issue that is stymieing me is the fact that one variety of Azalea, Lemon Lights, has decided that one bloom season in my garden isn’t enough; every late September, it breaks out  with a few additional, new blooms that last until end October. The photo above is an attestation to this phenomenon. What the reader sees is the yellow flowers in their last few days of glory, on October 25th 2011, to be exact.

If I were as innovative as some of my colleagues, I might place a burlap sack over this plant in August, to trick it into thinking that it is wintertime. Perhaps then, it might save its blooming energy for the following season. However, I am not that ambitious. By end August, I am happy to leave my garden untouched until it is time to cut down the perennials. Instead, I will live in harmony with this renegade plant and enjoy its lemon-yellow flowers whenever they decide to appear.

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (
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