Along Azalea Way this time of year, as many of you know, the Rhododendron cultivars, Redbuds & Dogwood Trees are putting on their show of stunning blossoms. Amongst all these flowering shrubs and trees it is sometimes hard to discern any individual plants, but its always worth it for me to stop at the group of Rhododendron occidentale at the North end of Azalea Way. These Rhododendron species, commonly known as Western Azalea, get my attention because in addition to the clusters of pretty flowers (and unlike most Rhododendron species) they have a wonderful scent. My nose could spend a lot of time near these shrubs. This grouping of about 10 shrubs (located in the very NW bed along with several other pink/orange flowering cultivars) were planted in 1946 and now each plant stands about 8-10 feet tall.
The R. occidentale is one of two native west coast Rhodies (the other being R. macrophyllum, our state flower) and is found mainly in the mountain and coastal areas of southern Oregon and Northern California. Because our climate and soils are similar, they are a plant that transfers quite well to our PNW gardens. They are a slow grower which can take sun or shade and seem to adapt to a variety of soils. Their native environments range from coastal marshes, river and lake sides and up to mountain meadows. But that’s not all – the other perk to these shrubs is that they can bear a lovely orange/red fall foliage color.
Come along on one of our Free Weekend Walks and enjoy a guided tour of these and many other collection plants in their full spring glory. No registration, visitors meet at the Graham Visitors Center at 1:00 pm each Sunday.
For more detail on these shrubs in their natural environment click the article link from Pacific Horticultural Society