Name That Azalea

Can Anybody?

early white azalea

 Here’s what we know about it:

It was here – and huge – when we got the house, 17 years ago.

It’s evergreen.

It blooms reliably every year (and abundantly, now that we have deer fencing).

It is fragrant, more in some years than others. Always with a very light, sweet clean laundry perfume that completely suits the flowers.

It has very long internodes, even when I prune it which I usually don’t.

the leaves are fuzzy

new azalea leaves , still furled

and they get occasional splotches of some kind of rusty fungus that doesn’t bother them. It doesn’t bother us, either, because the bush is on the far side of the yard, and we don’t cut the flowers for the vase. 

Every spring when I go plant shopping I bring along a flowering branch. No nursery I’ve visited has had a clue. Everybody just says ” it must be something old.”  

The closest thing I can find is R. mucronatum, but that’s described as a semi-evergreen that blooms midseason and is hardy only to zone 7, so it’s a case of “close but no cigar.”

I’d love to know what it is. I’d also love to know why it was planted next to a bunch of leucothoe, the stinkiest bloomer in all shrubdom whatever its other virtues.

white azalea next to leucothoe 

 

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7 Comments »

  • Leigh Said,

    This looks like “Mrs. G.G. Gerbing” to me. That’s a medium-sized Indica with an open growth habit.

    I wonder about the leaves’ fuzziness, though. I’ve never grown this type myself, though I see them at the nursery pretty often.

  • Leigh Said,

    By the way, I just found your blog. I’ll visit again soon!

  • leslie Said,

    Thanks, Leigh!

    and welcome.

    I’ll try to find a Mrs. G. and see, though a very brief google makes me fear disappointment. Pictures are inconclusive, though most support Floridata’s “pure white.” More suspiciously, Floridata also says “hardy to 10 degrees.” There’s nothing on this post to tell you ( my bad), but the mystery, whatever it is, is thriving in the zone 5b Hudson Valley. It seldom goes below zero these days, but it used to all the time and this thing never had any dieback – it’s TOUGH. Wasn’t fazed in the slightest by this year’s late April blast of 25 degrees, even though by then the buds pretty well along.

    I’ll post another , more mugshotly pic; the bloom has a wash of yellow/peach freckles on the upper inside that don’t show up well here.

  • renee Said,

    Could it be Coastal azalea? Used to have that growing in part shade at my old house in northern Westchester. Flowers looked very similar, and fragrance was memorable!
    Oops, mine wasn’t evergreen, sorry.
    By the way, I’m now in the mid-hudson valley, between New Hamburg and Wappingers. Are bear sightings frequent here?!
    Love your blog!

  • leslie Said,

    Hi Renee,

    Thanks for the compliment — and for reminding me what a nice plant coastal azalea is!

    Bear sightings are more and more frequent, on account of there are more and more bears. Since posting about it, I’ve heard of two more right in this neighborhood, still a bit way north of you. One of them was killed in the road, so I guess that makes 4 instead of 5 to worry about. But still…

  • Leigh Said,

    5b? Wowsa. I wouldn’t have thought any Indica would survive that for so many years. And the growth habit and the leaves do look like an Indica to me . . .

    Still, sometimes the vagaries of microclimate do odd things.

    I don’t just love white azaleas (they don’t self-clean, and spent bloom is ugly), so Gerbing is the only variety I know. This one looks lovely, though, and the sweet scent would be a big plus.

    Have you tried propagating it?

  • leslie Said,

    Well, Leigh

    it sounds as though Bill Miller has solved the riddle (see comments on part 2).

    I’m with you on the housekeeping aspect. Failure to self clean – or to self clean soon enough! – is a deal killer on a lot of white flowers. Have to say these aren’t too bothersome. Petal substance is so delicate they dry to nothing pretty quickly.

    I’ve never tried propagating them; the one giant bush is plenty for us and no one has ever asked for a start.

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