Azaleas At Foxfire

Azaleas At Foxfire

Part of Ep. 1001 Uncommon Gardens

Enjoy uniquely colored plants as Steve Scholte introduces the Light Series of rhododendrons and azaleas at Foxfire Gardens in Marshfield.

Premiere date: Mar 02, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Foxfire Gardens in Marshfield is famous for many things. Its Hostas, waterfalls and in the Spring, the gorgeous display put on by the Rhododendrons and the Azaleas. I'm with one of the creators of Foxfire, Steve Scholte. Steve, you and your wife Linda have just created a paradise here. When can the public come see this place?

Steve:
The gardens are open Mother's Day through Labor Day. If the weather is permitting we open sooner and stay open later. Ten o'clock in the morning until six at night every day of the week.

Shelley:
Talk to me a little bit about these gorgeous plants behind us. These are wonderful.

Steve:
The Rhododendrons and the Azaleas are some of my favorites and we have been fortunate in finding a group of plants that are very hearty and will survive the harsh Wisconsin winters and still produce this brilliant display of flowers in the Spring. It's called the Light Series, it was developed at the University of Minnesota Arboretum and I would recommend anybody in this country of pursuing this particular line of plants.

Shelley:
Especially in our growing zones.

Steve:
In our growing zones, zone three and four. You will get nice plants. This particular one is called Northern Lights and it's a brilliant pink, one of my favorites, and it's not quite all the way open yet, it's a little cool. But it will be very showy here in a short period of time.

Shelley:
Now this one is more of what, apricot colored?

Steve:
Well, when this opens up it will be orange, a light salmon color, all the way to a deep orange color. It's an Azalea Mallus. The Azaleas and the Rhododendrons are genetically very similar and are treated much the same as forest propagation and cultivation. These will be about the second ones that will bloom as the season progresses. These plants will bloom the later part of May, early part of June, and if we plant several varieties together they sequentially bloom.

Shelley:
Then you get a big show.

Steve:
You'll get a big show.

Shelley:
Now this one, this is almost a light lavender color.

Steve:
This is a charming little addition, it's called Orchid Lights, and its got that pale lavender and it's just very delicate and just a neat little plant, we really like this guy here. And up here we have Spicy Lights, which is one of the different ones in that it has a very fragrant aroma. Spicy like cloves or allspice, and we like to plant this near areas where people will walk or where they will sit so they can enjoy the aroma of this particular plant.

Shelley:
I didn't think any of them had that much scent, that's great.

Steve:
They don't. There are several more plants in this series, there's Golden Lights, there's Rosy Lights, there's High Lights, there's quite a variety people can choose from. All will do quite well in our zone.

Shelley:
Perfect for Wisconsin gardeners then.

Steve:
Yes it is. This is the P.J.M. Rhododendron, which has already bloomed. It's the very deep purple one that you see early, this is the first one in the spring. These flower buds are set in the fall and they must survive the Wisconsin winter and that's what it blooms in the spring.

Shelley:
So that's the heartiness issue. The plant may survive the winters, but if the buds don't we're not going to get any flowers.

Steve:
That is absolutely correct and that is why the Northern Lights series has been such a good one for us. Once they bloom, then the new growth comes out and then this fall we'll get buds on the end of that and then those are what must survive. Not only do we need a hearty plant for it to bloom, but we also need adequate phosphorous and we need adequate light. They must have three or four hours of light everyday to set these flower buds.

Shelley:
They're not a shade plant then.

Steve:
They're not a shade plant. They don't like hot, harsh afternoon sun, but that early morning sun, three or four hours, it's perfect for that.

Shelley:
Well and I've heard that there's also a critter that just loves munching on these buds.

Steve:
Unfortunately the deer really like to browse these and there have been years when there's not a single one blooming in our garden because the deer get in. But you need to take precautions to avoid damage.

Shelley:
Protect them, okay.

Steve:
Protect them.

Shelley:
You've got one last on that's white.

Steve:
This is an amazing plant. It's a member of the Lights series, it's called White Lights for obvious reasons. But very profuse flowers and rapidly growing, and just a wonderful specimen. I might add a little bit on the propagation of these plants is that we want to dig a sufficient hole to spread the roots out so it has adequate room. These plants often come root bound and you have to be careful to spread the roots out so that they don't grow in a circle and then end up dying in two years.

Shelley:
Choking itself.

Steve:
We want to throw in some peat moss for the organic soil and a little bit of aluminum sulfate or sulfur crystals that would provide our acidic environment. They like the coolness to the roots so a little mulch on the top to keep the sun off of their and keep those roots cool. And if the people follow through with those rules they'll have a magnificent display in their yard.

Shelley:
Gorgeous. Thank you very much Steve.

Steve:
Thank you.

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