Yes, I know it is a bit after the fact, and yes, I know that the flowering of almost all azaleas has passed, but I can’t help but put in a word for a few kinds that flower at the end of spring, which doesn’t expire, astronomically, for two more days.
And did I say, a few weeks ago, that one azalea in late May, or even early June, is worth a bushel of them in April? Well, it’s true. I always get attention from garden visitors in late May and even on into June when the tardy flowering ones are abloom.
We don’t have room here, or enough knowledge, to call your attention to all late flowering azaleas, but we will take on some of the most common.
A series of late Japanese azaleas are known loosely as Satsukis, the word meaning, in Japanese, fifth month. May is indeed the fifth month, but some Satsukis linger on into June as well.
There are a huge number of them, but for all practical purposes only a few are seen in this country.
These seem to be enough, since they run a short gamut of a few good colors.
‘Gumpo Pink,’ ‘Gumpo White’ and ‘Gumpo Fancy’ are all excellent late bloomers. The first two are self-explanatory, but I need to point out that the pink one is a very good pink, bright and clear with no hint of orange or salmon in its makeup.
The white, too, is good and clear. These two, like most Satsukis, have large flowers, for an azalea, and prefer some sun to provide the most buds. Morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal for the whole of the Satsukis.
‘Gumpo Fancy’ has bi-color flowers with a dark pink throat fading to white on the outer petals. The two-tone effect is pleasing. Just about my favorite Satsuki is ‘Chinzan.’ This one grows somewhat wider than most of the Gumpos, up to 5 feet or so, and has been reliable for me for some 20 years.
It is a heavy bloomer, with pink flowers with overtones of apricot. Foliage is excellent, dark green and glossy the year round. ‘Chinzan’ is not as common as the others mentioned, but it can be searched out.
I have several of the ‘Chinzan’ varieties and one, particularly, in a rock garden, hugs the ground (with a little help) to about a foot tall, and is more than 5 feet across.
The edges of it have reached a large boulder and are growing out over it in a pleasing, naturalistic manner.
Another one, in a different location, is about 3 feet tall by five wide and has been allowed to do as it pleases, except that it must be pruned a bit to keep it from crowding a nearby boxwood.
My one ‘Gumpo White’ is also in a rock garden and has spread to 5 feet or so across, layering itself as it goes, making for what appears to be more than one plant. It has been in situ for perhaps 20 years.
Some macrantha azaleas are also late bloomers, but others are not. In our red border, I tried ‘Macrantha Orange’ several years ago.
It went two or three years without flowering, then one year had a few flowers that turned out to be about 80 percent pinkish with just a hint of orange, about like the common ‘Fashion’ azalea seen hither and yon.
I waited another year and this time it has finally bloomed forth with gusto, but still mostly pink, not what I wanted at all.
How many years do you waste on a plant before finding out it is faulty? Well, I still pine for a ‘Macrantha Orange,’ but at least mine does flower late. It is in bloom as we speak, clashing joyfully with nearby groups of red Indian pink, red hardy amaryllis etc.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Unless you are skydiving.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.