This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
One of the grandest flowers I ever beheld is the Rhododendron occidentale, or California Azalea. It is a native of California, where it grows along streams of crystal water in thickly wooded districts, throughout the State. The finest are found in the Sierra Nevadas, and the best I ever saw were in the section of county around the Silver Creeks, where they are covered with snow for four months in the year.
Rhododendron occidentale is a shrub growing three to six feet high; the foliage is the handsomest I ever saw; the leaves are lanceolate in shape, about four inches long, and one to one and a half inches across, of a rather firm texture when fully developed. In color they are a bright shining green, when half grown they have all the appearance of being freshly varnished, and as will be readily admitted by all who have seen it, this bright green foliage is half the charm of the plant, and makes a most charming setting for the large and conspicuous flowers.
The flowers are two and a half, to three inches long, with a conspicuous calyx composed of dis-dinct oblong sepals, the corolla is usually snow white with the upper lobe yellow inside, they are sometimes, however, found with rose-tinged flowers. The stamens and style are much ex-serted, moderately curved, and very conspicuous. The flowers are borne in large clusters of from ten to twenty each.
Rhododendron occidentale blooms in the Summer, and is constantly in flower during July and August.
For Eastern gardens, I think it will be found the best of any flower which California has supplied, as it grows where the snow lays on the ground four to five months in the year, where it freezes eleven months, and yet where the sun in Summer will send the thermometer over 130°. The soil it seems to require is moderately light, black soil. It will not grow well under trees or in the shade, but requires plenty of sunlight.