In Praise of the Variety & Beauty
of Rhododendron Foliage, Part II
The first photo (above left) is 'Hill's Bright Red,' a dwarf rhododendron that grows to only three feet in ten years, so this four foot tall specimen is fairly mature. When it is first finishing with its bright red blossoms, it begins producing new leaves, that are at first bright red themselves! (Follow the link to the 'Hill's Bright Red' page for more photos, including of the new leaves at their reddest.) The new red leaves mature to green, but in winter, this entire shrub has a faint reddish hue throughout the evergreen foliage.
There's a phlox blooming at the edge of this 'Hill's Bright Red' photo, & behind the flox is Rhododendron 'Mood Indigo' adding to the texture of this corner of one of the gardens.
'Mood Indigo' is another shrub of leafy interest, for when its bloom period is winding down, its fresh young new leaf growth is bright yellow, & looks like a second flowering in a completely different color, until the leaves harden to green. If you follow the 'Mood Indigo' link to its separate page, you'll see a portrait of the last indigo blossoms with the first bright yellow leaves which are momentarily on the bush simultaneously.
In the right hand corner of the 'Hill's Bright Red' photo you can also make out some of the leaves of the overhanging Weeping Green Beech'. The beech loses its leaves in winter, but the 'Mood Indigo' & 'Hill's Bright Red' will still be fully leafed, nestling in the slim shadows of the weeping, twisted, naked branches of the beech. Not a blossom in sight, but absolutely stunning.
The sheer variety of the foliage also begs praise, ranging from the tiny leaves of 'Hino Crimson' to the large leaves of the typical lepidote Iron Clads; from the spidery grass-thin leaves of the Spider Azalea to varieties with lance-shaped, oval, or perfectly round leaves.
The present pages are of summer foliages only; there could be whole other page to show the rich autumn & winter coloration of such varieties as 'PJM Elite' which turn mahagony, 'Oceanlake' which turns so deeply purple it's nearly black, or 'Girard's Crimson' with coppery rust Autumn/Winter coloration, & the brilliantly red autumn leaves of semi-evergreen azalea 'Stewartstonia'
There are other unusual new-growth appearances akin to those on 'Mood Indigo' & 'Hill's Bright Red,' such as the young leaves of 'Brickdust' folded into the shape of arrowheads in flushed lime green until they are completely unfolded & hardening to their round spoon shapes. You really must follow the 'Brickdust' link to see the young-leaf arrowheads.
Some leaves are furry; some are bright orange underneath. All this before assessing the differing behavior of azalea varieties that are deciduous. The variations of foliage is so extreme, it is surprising they are all of the same genus.
These examples are scattered throughout our gardens & most of those not pictured in this article can be found on pages of their own with leaf as well as flower types shown.
The second portrait (on the right) shows a semi-shady area underneath a huge deciduous Whitethroat Azalea (with one of its lower sprigs showing), which has Epimediums growing completely sheltered under the Whitethroat & alongside a dwarf Mother's Day Azalea nearby to the right, this latter being one of the azaleas that puts on a show of coppery-purple leaves in autumn & winter.
In Praise of the Variety & Beauty
of Rhododendron Foliage, Part III
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