'White Rosebud' Azalea
"Azaleas -- whitest of white!
White as the drifted snow
Fresh-fallen out of the night,
Before the coming glow
Tinges the morning light;
When the light is like the snow,
And the silence is like the light:
Light, and silence, and snow, --
All -- white!"
-Harriet McEwen Kimball,
We'd never heard of 'White Rosebud' Azalea when we first saw it & were not influenced by its established fame. Without advance knowledge of it, we just knew at first glance that it was distinct among azaleas, with just a terribly beautiful flower.
The flowers occur April & May, singly rather than in trusses, but in great numbers all over a dark-green evergreen shrub, with new spring leaves being yellow-green for a little while. The flowers are "very full doubles" hence the name "white rosebud," as they do look more like rose than azalea flowers, or like double camellias. A touch of green in the throat is at once strange & beautiful, a perfect touch to make them outstanding even among other white rhodies & azaleas. The buds are white as well, & do look like white rosebuds.
'White Rosebud' was developed by Dr. August Kehr, & additonal cultivars were developed out of it, to get other colors of rose-like doubles. "Augy" Kehr, a past president of the America Rhododendron Society, has been honored with both the ARS Bronze & the ARS Gold medals for his contributions to rhododendron cultivation. He began developing his hybrids in North Carolina in the early 1960's, & became both his life's work & his life's achievement.
The group has in general a low-growing habit, plus the double flowers not in trusses. The entire Kehr series is recommendable both for blossom & ease of care, justly classed as a Top Performer by the ARS. 'White Rosebud' is even more cold-hardy than most, doing well to minus ten degrees F.
Their closest affinities are for Kurume hybrids, but the flowers tend to be larger. 'White Rosebud' is one of the largest-flowered (two to three inch doubles & extremely fluffy), & seems to be the most famous & best loved of the series. Though it likes the sun, the white flowers do sunburn easily. Getting the ideal balance between dappled sunlight & bright shade is essential for best performance.
It grows rapidly when young & is capable of becoming gangly especially if in too much shade. While young it can do with occasional hard prunings so that it ages with a more compact habit; eventually it will need no more pruning than any other hardy evergreen azalea.
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