H: Thursday, April 10, 2008

Things Rhododendron and Selection

How to Select the Right Evergreen

by Jimmy Cox
When we enter the world of evergreens we find there is almost no part of this vast country of ours where they cannot be grown. From the tender Gardenia that blossoms in the genial warmth of a Louisiana garden, to the sturdy Spruces of Alaska, and the Junipers, Pines, and other stalwart conifers that grow into Maine and Canada, these woody ornamentals abound.

From the climatic extremes of the Deep South to the far northern gardens of the United States and Canada, there are countless evergreens that are well adapted to the varying degrees of cold and warmth in the different parts of the country.

Below are two of the most important to help you select those best suited to your climatic conditions and landscape needs.

ACACIA. This beautiful evergreen with its light, feathery foliage and myriads of blooms, is successfully cultivated outdoors in gardens where the temperature does not fall below 15 to 20 F.; the exact temperature varies with the species. Acacias are rapid growers, and excellent for new home owners who desire a quick screen; however, their disadvantage is that they are short-lived trees which reach maturity at the age of about 30 years, after which time they commence to fail.

This need not be too disturbing, since Acacias are easy to raise from cuttings. This plant thrives in well-drained, moist, rich soil to which some leaf mold has been added. A sunny situation is another requisite in its culture. Acacias are heavy feeders and require ample fertilizing. They should be watered liberally, in fact, they should never be allowed to suffer from dryness. Each year after flowering it is advisable to cut the main branches back quite drastically in order to avoid a spindly growth.

Propagation is by cuttings of the half-ripened wood made with a heel (a cutting of the season 's growth which is taken with a small piece of the older wood attached to it). Acacia can also be grown easily from seed. Germination is hastened by soaking the seed in hot water and allowing it to cool; the seed should be allowed to soak in the water for a day or two prior to seeding.

A. decurrens dealbata, Silver Wattle. This Australian species of Acacia can be grown in regions where the temperature does not fall below 15 F. It is a very ornamental, choice tree which sometimes attains a height of 50 feet. This is the species generally found in florists' shops in the northern part of the United States and is known by the name of "mimosa." The lovely foliage and fragrant yellow flowers are always a joy.

AZALEA fills a most important role in every home-garden planting; indeed, there is no part of the landscape composition that these beautiful plants do not make lovelier. Along the foundation of the house they are admirable, and they add immensely to the interest of the entrance planting in spring with their profusion of flowers. Used in masses as facers to the taller-growing evergreens and deciduous material, Azaleas are strikingly ornamental.

Along a woodland path, informal, irregular groupings of these plants create an unforgettable picture of spring color; since they prefer a partly shady location they are well adapted for such use, provided the trees are sufficiently high-headed to allow a moderate amount of sunlight to reach them. In common with Rhododendrons, Azaleas should never be cultivated; any weeds that appear through the mulch should be pulled out by hand, to avoid disturbing the shallow feeding roots.

Among the evergreen Azaleas one could hardly find a lovelier choice to make than Rhododendron mucronatum, Snow Azalea. This plant is usually purchased from nurserymen by the familiar names of Azalea ledifolia alba or A. indica alba, and should not be confused with Snow, a Kurume variety. Its large showy white flowers bloom at tulip-time and set off the gay colors of the bulbs to best advantage.

Either of these two lovely evergreens would make a welcome addition to your garden.

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