Like Alice, I fear we have fallen down the rabbit hole. It’s loony tunes out there.
The New York Times reported that the nation’s largest food and beverage companies are seeking FDA approval to label as “natural” foods laced with genetically modified organisms (GMO’S). (The New York Times, December 20, 2013, p.B3)
Hard to believe, but true. The same folks who are spending millions of dollars in a nation-wide campaign to prevent GMO food labeling, thus denying consumers the right to make informed choices, are now shamelessly demanding the right to label their GMO-laboratory-designed-food, “NATURAL”.
Thank goodness we can retreat to the sanity and comfort of the garden — in mind and spirit, if not in person — and dream about the upcoming joys of Spring, namely, Mother Nature’s sweet progeny, Deciduous Azaleas. Here are some of my favorites:
Rhododendron ‘Arneson Ruby’. (Zones 5-8).
As you can see from the photos, this exquisite show-stopper has ball-shaped trusses of purple-red buds, opening in May to vibrant ruby-red flowers. The plant is a hardy, disease-resistant, upright grower that can reach 5-6 feet in height.
If you aren’t into upright and tall, I recommend R. ‘Arneson’s Ruby Princess’ with similar ruby-red flowers on a mounding azalea that most likely will not exceed 3 feet. The Princess shares Ruby’s cold hardiness and good health and possesses the additional attribute of attractive dense foliage. (Photo below.)
In my garden, R. ‘Arneson Ruby’ grows alongside another May bloomer, Rhododendron ‘Klondyke’ (Zones 5-8), an azalea highly prized for its beautiful, fragrant, golden-orange flowers, complemented by handsome bronzy-green new foliage. (Photos below)
For those seeking fragrant flowers, Rhododendron ‘Narcissiflora’ (Zones 5-8) is a must-have. This tall, vigorous, old-timer flaunts masses of bright yellow flowers that fill the air with sweet perfume. And as for white-flowering azaleas, there’s none better than the uber-fragrant “twins”, Rhododendrons ‘Snowbird’ and ‘Fragrant Star.’ (Zones 4-8) (Photos below in order of mention.)
All of these deciduous azaleas have been time-tested and flourish in my organic, toxic-chemical-free garden. They require acid, well-drained soil and can tolerate — even appreciate — more sun than their big cousins, the Elepidote Rhododendrons. [See also: June 14, 2013 post, “Evergreen Azaleas: La Crème de la Crème”, and for comprehensive information on all things azalea, Azaleas by Fred C. Galle (Timber Press. 1999).]