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What's An Exbury Azalea? (Review)

Posted by Dave Morgenroth

Exbury Azalea Review

Anyone desiring showy, deciduous, spring-flowering plants is in for a real treat with a planting of Exbury Hybrid azaleas.

They are one group among several genera of deciduous azaleas belonging to the Rhododendron genus. Other deciduous azalea groups include the Northern Light Series, Arneson, Mossman, Briggs, Kehr, Knaphill, Girard, and Weston.

The development of the Exbury Hybrid azaleas was accomplished through the cross-breeding of both native U.S. and Asian varieties, and a succession of additional cross-breeding, in the late 1800’s.

In 1919 Lionel de Rothschild laid the groundwork for the development of the first true Exbury Hybrids. He purchased the estate of Exbury, and over the next two decades he hybridized more Rhododendrons than most any other horticulturist of his time. In 1920 he acquired a batch of Knaphill azaleas from Anthony Waterer, Jr. (yes, of Spirea ‘Anthony Waterer’ fame), and through a succession of cross-breeding developed the first true Exbury Hybrid azaleas. In the 1930’s, the Exbury azaleas really went public, and became more successful in the U.S than in Europe.

Varieties of Exbury Azaleas

Cultivars include ‘Strawberry Ice’, with a pink-peach flower; ‘Cannon Double’, with a double cream-pink flower; ‘Double Delight’, with a yellow flower; and ‘Fireball, with a bright red flower.

These plants work great in a woodland setting with a backdrop of Hemlocks and a scattering of spring bulbs massed in front of them. Most plants reach 3-5’ in height. What a sight to behold! They will tolerate full sun, and like to be planted in a well-drained, acidic, non-compacted soil. Pruning should be done immediately after flowering to insure no flower buds are removed.

I have a couple plants at the entrance to my vegetable garden area, and I look forward to their spectacular display every spring!



Tags: Plants, Shrubs