Native Azalea Collections

romantic_camelliamanMarch 23, 2009

As the chairman of the propagation committee of The Great Gardens of America Preservation Alliance, I am hoping to find collections of native azaleas to propagate this May. Once the plants are growing, they will be distributed to member gardens across the south for preservation. I would appreciate any leads on rare colors or hybrids in collections that I can collect cuttings from. I plan a week around the first of May to start collecting.


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It seems like Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA would be a good place to contact.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 10:19PM
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I have set up with Hank Bruno and Ernest Koone to get to Callaway and Pine Mountain. I am also hitting private gardens around Atlanta. I am setting aside 5-7 days, so I can probably make it through Mississippi from Charleston in that time period.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 9:43AM
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if you pass through alabama on your way from georgia to mississippi, tom dodd's nursery in semmes, al should also be a worthwhile stop. i had a specimen of 'millie mac' a few years ago (pic posted in the gallery section of this forum) that is a yellow and white flowered selection of r. austrinum.
it may have been introduced by this nursery but i am not sure about that.
our local kiwanis club spring azalea sale gets a lot of their stock from there and that is where i purchased my plant. lost it to drought, sadly.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 10:26AM
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I don't know if he is in Georgia or Alabama, but Dr. R. Oneal Smitherman has been a very involved plantsman in this regard.

He recently spoke at the March meeting of the Azalea Chapter of ARS.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 2:19PM
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I was doing some research on native azaleas and came upon Don Hyatt's website. I contacted him and he informed me the Azalea Society of America annual conference is not far from my house this year. I joined the society so that I can attend the lectures and tour the gardens.

Maybe you should plan to attend the Virginia Celebrates Azalea festival.

Here is a link that might be useful: Don Hyatt's website

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 7:11PM
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I hope to go to Virginia this year. Thanks for reminding me to register. I do not know Dr. Smitherman. Does anyone know how to contact him?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 8:25AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Dr. Smitherman retired after forty years of service with Auburn University Department of Fisheries and International Center for Aquaculture where he taught at the graduate level in the areas of fish farming and genetics. He was responsible for fish genetics and breeding with catfish and also developed improved strains of catfish, which are now used on most fish farms in the USA, with annual production of nearly 1 billion pounds.

Dr. Smitherman has spent 40 years collecting and breeding native azaleas. In the process he has made some 500 experimental crosses with the goals of improving flower size, color and fragrance. Smitty was a very instrumental factor in the process of recognizing the recently acclaimed species Rhododendron colemanii. In fact he crossed the species with the exbury azalea 'Gibraltar' and produced the cultitvar 'Patsy's Pink' which has been registered by the RHS and was featured in the recent excellent article by Dr. Ron Miller about R. colemanii in the ARS journal. He has registered 'Corley's Cardinal' and 8 other native azalea cultivars. Currently he is working with the Davis Arboretum at Auburn with a goal of acquiring a full collection on southeast native rhododendron. This work has led him to exploring many of the natural areas where natives are located. His presentation will include discussion of this work as well as his hybridization efforts.

He recently spoke for the Azalea Chapter. You should be able to get contact information from Ken Gohring at 770-422-0924, or Email:

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 8:59AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I would recommend that you contact Woodlander's Nursery in Aiken, S.C. Their website says that this might be their last year in operation - that's really too bad, as they were the firt mail-order nursery I know of that specialized in native plants. They have a big selection of native azaleas, many in unusual colors.
I've been ordering from them for years, and I've got some of the rare color varieties myself -
R. periclymenoides (nudiflorum) 'Purple' - I made this picture today of the buds, which should open soon -

And here are some more pictures I made today -
R. austrinum 'Harrison's Red' -

R. flammeum 'Scarlet Ibis' -

The above three came from Woodlander's, and I've got more that came from there, including a cream colored R. austrinum, a white R. canescens, and a R. canescens that's in bud now called 'Clyo Red' that's got burgundy colored buds that open to a hot pink - I was going to photograph 'Clyo Red' today, but the weather's been bad, and I thought it'd be better to wait until the buds open.
Mail Order Natives in Lee, Florida, also carries a lot of southern native azaleas.
The natives azaleas are in full swing on my 5 1/2 wooded acres now. I've got many R. austrinum bushes in shades ranging from pale yellow to bright orange and R. canescens bushes, ranging in color from pale pink to hot pink. I've also got a R. austrinum/Exbury hybrid that makes big, beautiful orange and yellow blooms. Some of the natives have bloomed out, and some are just beginning - most of them smell wonderful!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 7:51PM
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I hate to here that about Woodlanders. I have been there many times. I will contact them. I hope to meet Dr. Smitherman soon. My brother is a paramedic in Auburn so I hope to go see their collection. The Azalea Society of America has been a great help locating plants for me in the past. We have set aside 5 acres here at Magnolia for the stock plants for the collection.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 8:39AM
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I have made contact with Dr. Smitherman. Great contact, Thanks. It seems we both share the idea of preservation. Great looking plants Sherry. How many natives are in your collection? Our garden here at Magnolia is just starting to bloom. It will eventually be 5 acres of just native azaleas. We are working with the South Carolina Native Plant Society to include more native azaleas in our Audubon Swamp Garden.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 1:01PM
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steve yeatts has quite a collection here in athens... he has collected many unique R. austrinum collections from north florida and has some yellow flowering R alabamense and the rare R. colmanii and eastmanii. there is also a mid to late april smoky pink canescens/alabamense that is my favorite. you should definitely see his property!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 12:11PM
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I would like to see Steve's collection. Does anyone have contact info? Ernest Koone is bringing me another load of unusual native azaleas mid month. Maarten van der Giessan donated Magnolia the collection of Dr. Aromi's hybrids last year. They are blooming now and they are beautiful.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2009 at 5:23PM
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Don't overlook Transplant Nursery in Lavonia, GA, a little northeast of Athens. Transplant Nursery is known for its native azaleas. The phone number is (706) 356-8947.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 3:33PM
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Thanks Jay,
I had forgotten about Transplant. I used them a lot when I was in Ga.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 10:54AM
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