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The Florida azalea is native to several Southern states including Georgia. It is an example
of some of the warm, even hot, colors that can be had with native azaleas. PHOTO BY
ARTY SCHRONCE

Consumer Qs, April 18, 2017

By Arty Schronce, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Georgia Department of Agriculture

www.agr.georgia.gov

Editor’s note: “Consumer Qs” by Arty Schronce is written for gardeners throughout Georgia and may include plants not permitted in Big Canoe. For Big Canoe Property Owners who may want to check whether a plant is allowed, please refer to the POA’s Approved Plant List http://www.bigcanoepoa.org/getmedia/b668254f-a001-418c-ad94-3873707c5444/Approved-Plant-List.aspx

Question (Q): I want to become a dog walker/pet sitter – to go to people’s homes and take care of their dogs and cats while they are away on trips. Do I need to be licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture?

Answer (A): No, but you will need a kennel license if you open a business in which you are boarding animals for people while they are away. For more information, contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Animal Protection Office at 404-656-4914.

Q:  How long can you keep hard-boiled eggs?

A:  Hard-boiled eggs (also referred to as hard-cooked eggs) can be stored in your refrigerator for up to seven days, either left in their shells or peeled.

Q: I have been looking for more native plants for my landscape and want to include some native azaleas. Do you have any suggestions?

A: We haven’t met a native azalea we did not like. There are many kinds and all are worth protecting if they are growing on your property, and all are worth planting if you have a spot for them. And there is probably one or more that will fit into your landscape or color scheme as they come in red, pink, white, yellow and orange.

To best answer your question, we turned to two experts who spend their working days among some of the finest displays of Georgia’s native azaleas: horticulturist and author Erica Glasener who is currently marketing manager at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, and Patricia Collins who serves as director of gardens at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain.

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The Piedmont azalea is known by several common names including the Florida Pinxter
azalea and hoary azalea. PHOTO BY ARTY SCHRONCE

“The top of my list of favorite native azaleas should be, and is, the plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium),” said Collins. The plumleaf is the signature plant of Callaway Gardens. Cason J. Callaway discovered some of the azaleas blooming on a July afternoon. He and his wife Virginia developed Callaway Gardens partly in an effort to preserve the azalea.

Collins likes the azalea because it blooms in midsummer “anywhere from late June through August” and for its eye-catching deep red flowers “especially on a hot summer’s day when you don’t expect much in the way of native plants or native azaleas in color.”

Another late-bloomer Collins likes is the sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens). She noted its white blooms and red stamens and its sweet fragrance. “This one should be planted near a walkway, front door or a patio so you can enjoy the smell,” she suggested. 

“As for the early-blooming natives, I think my favorite is probably the Florida azalea (Rhododendron austrinum). It has nice yellow to yellow-orange flower color and a wonderful, lemony fragrance,” she said.

Collins also advised that there can be a lot of color variation within a species and they readily hybridize in nature. If you are set on a specific color, she recommends purchasing native azaleas when they are actually in bloom so that you know exactly what you are getting. She said there are some named varieties of which you can be sure of the color, but also said that when planting a mass of azaleas “I tend to like a little variation.”

Native azaleas have long been a favorite plant of mine,” said Glasener. “They are easy to grow, pest and disease resistant and many are fragrant. And, unlike many of the cultivated azaleas, the plants don’t hold on to their spent blossoms.”

She also likes the plumleaf azalea because of its late-blooming period, striking color, and the way it draws butterflies. Another favorite is the swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) with its “strongly fragrant clove-scented flowers.” True to its name, it will tolerate boggy soils.

Rhododendron canescens   Gibbs Glasener

The Piedmont azalea is one of the most asked about azaleas at Gibbs Gardens in Ball
Ground. PHOTO BY ERICA GLASENER

Glasener said that one of the azaleas to get the most comments from visitors to Gibbs Gardens is the Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens). “There is a group that is the size of small flowering trees. The flowers range from white to pink and perfume the air for several weeks.”

As for planting native azaleas in the home landscape, Glasener likes to combine them with evergreens including native rhododendrons, Florida anise (Illicium floridanum) and Florida leucothoe (Agarista populifolia). Oakleaf hydrangeas and native hardy gingers and ferns are also good companions.

One final piece of advice from Glasener, “Give them room to grow. Many native azaleas want to be small trees. Some will reach eight to 12 feet or taller.”

While some native azaleas are available at nurseries, gardeners should watch for plant sales held by the Georgia Native Plant Society, Master Gardeners and public gardens, including a native azalea sale coming up at Gibbs on April 29.

If you have questions about agriculture, horticulture, food safety or services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.

 

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