[From Greek signifying arid, a name quite inappropriate to our species, which grow mostly in moist places.]
This is not hardy enough to endure our winters, but is one of the most beautiful of the hardy green-house shrubs in cultivation. The colors are from pure white to dark crimson, scarlet, and light purple, with intermediate shades; it continues a long time in bloom during the winter months; it is suitable for the sitting-room as well as the green-house.
Clammy Azalea, "White Swamp-Honeysuckle, may be found in abundance among the brushwood in low grounds, ,and is much admired for the fragrance of its flowers, which are produced in terminal, umbel-like corymbs; mostly pure white, but sometimes varying to blush or variegated; hairy and glutinous on the outside; stamens longer than the corolla, which in all the species is bell or funnel form, terminating in five unequal segments.
This, as well as A. viscosa, is called by the country people Swamp Pink, probably on account of the odor of the flowers, which has some resemblance to the Garden Pink. By them they are eagerly sought after, and form a conspicuous part of the decoration of the mantel-piece, in its season, the month of June. The color is commonly a fine pink, varying to a deep red, which is rare. Their beauty is much increased by the threadlike stamens being much longer than the corolla.
There are several indigenous species, besides many varieties to be found in different parts of our country; all handsome and worthy the attention of the florist.
Some of the cultivated varieties are the following; A. coccinea, with scarlet flowers; A. rutilans, with deep red flowers; A. cornea, with pale-red flowers; A. alba, with white flowers; A. partita, with flesh-colored flowers parted to the base; A. papilionacea, with red flowers, the lower divisions white; A. polyandria, with rose-colored flowers, with from ten to twenty stamens.
A. Pontica is a beautiful species from Pontus, with yellow flowers, emitting the most exquisite odor. The juice in the bottom of the flower is said to be poisonous, and communicates its bad properties to the unwholesome honey of that country; the famous honey of Trebizond spoken of by Xenophon, in his history of the retreat of the ten thousand Greeks, as having produced the effect of temporary madness, or rather drunkenness, on all who eat of it, without, however, producing any serious consequences. All the beautiful varieties now in cultivation, have been raised from hybridized seeds of the Pontic and American species.
The Azalea is a well-known plant throughout Belgium, and forms one of the most splendid decorations of the flower-garden. It is generally considered to be the most beautiful genus of the flowering shrubs. The neat form and bushy growth, the vast profusion of its flowers, the extensive variety and splendor of colors in the flowers, their appearance at a season when few other flowers are in bloom, and the little trouble which the plant requires when grown in a suitable soil and a good situation, all combine to cause the plant to be much admired, sought after, and introduced into nearly every pleasure-ground in Belgium.
The varieties of this handsome genus are very numerous and have been raised in a short period. Twenty years since there were only a very few moderate species, having small, insignificant flowers, in large clusters, continuing through the month of June. The colors are white, yellow, orange, scarlet, and pink, with every intermediate shade.
Notwithstanding the exceeding beauty of this tribe of shrubs, and their perfect hardiness, they are rarely to be seen in our gardens.
Azaleas require a moist, peaty soil, or black, sandy loam, and rather shady situation. Plants may be freely raised from seed, or from layers and suckers.
If taken from the woods, the best way is to cut them off close to the ground. They will throw up numerous shoots and form fine healthy plants.