This is a genus of highly ornamental shrubs, of which many species are indigenous,
The only species common in the vicinity of Boston is A. vis-cosa, which may be found in abundance among the brush-wood 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.
As we advance further into the interior, thirty or forty miles, the beautiful A. mudiflora occasionally presents itself to the enraptured traveller, tempting him for a while to forget the objects of his journey, and admire the elegance and fragrance of its flowers. 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 length of the thread-like stamens, being much longer than the corolla, which is naked or destitute of a calyx, from which its specific name is given, nudiflora, or naked-flowered.
There are as many as a dozen indigenous species, besides many varieties to be found in different parts of our country; all handsome, and worthy the attention of the florist.
"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." Now there are many varieties, with brilliant 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.