The Lights Azalea Hybrids are currently in full bloom at Powell Gardens. The Lights azaleas were hybridized by the University of Minnesota and most involve Missouri's only native azalea the Roseshell Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum). Unfortunately our native azalea defies captivity, in other words, it won't grow away from where it is native no matter how hard we try to cultivate it! I am glad the wonderful fragrance of American native azaleas is still present in most of these hybrids so be sure and take time to smell them. Look for all our Lights Azaleas in the Rock & Waterfall Garden, most along the walk along the north side of the garden (that takes you to the trolley stop).
Candy Lights Azalea is one of the newest and best of the Lights Azalea hybrids with fragrant pink flowers, clean foliage and a compact form.
Rosy Lights Azalea may have the best fragrance of the group and looks most like our native azalea. The flowers are much more rosy pink than the shell pink of wild azaleas. This shrub blooms without any leaves so looks like a full pink bush right now.
Tri-Lights Azalea has white, pink and yellow flowers and is one of the newer hybrids. It is a great performer and can be seen in the core of the Rock and Waterfall Garden between the two bridges.
White Lights Azalea opens softest pink from pink buds and ages to pure white. It is intensely fragrant and perfect for an evening or white garden.
Northern Hi-Lights Azalea has creamy young flowers with an egg yolk blotch on the upper flare -- as the flowers age they are clearly white with a yellow hi-light. The flowers just opened in this picture so are still in the creamy stage. I also really like this plant for an evening or white garden. It is also wonderfully fragrant.
Lemon Lights Azalea is a rich lemony yellow and fragrant too.
Golden Lights Azalea will stop you in your tracks as you walk by: it will first capture your attention with its wonderful aroma and then with its large, golden-orange flowers.
Spicy Lights Azalea is more of a bronzy, pinkish-orange and the first of this hybrid group to bloom. I was happy to see it is still blooming (you can see a floret dropping at the bottom of the image).
Mandarin Lights Azalea is the most vivacious of the group in glowing bright orange. It is a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds and several of our large swallowtail butterflies. I actually expect the first Giant Swallowtails to emerge when this flower blooms and can count on seeing our largest butterfly nectaring on this shrub. This cultivar is not fragrant.
Two cultivars of Red Horsechestnut (Aesculus x carnea) trees are in full bloom near the Rock & Waterfall Trolley Stop. Red Horsechestnut is a hybrid between Missouri's native Red Buckeye (A. pavia) and the European Horsechestnut (A. hippocastanum).