Kew's azalea collection in full flower
Bright orange, purple and yellow flowers are jostling for prime position in a spectacular springtime show.
Azaleas have been growing at Kew since the 1850s, and the layout of the Azalea Garden illustrates the development of deciduous azalea hybrids. All the species planted in the Azalea Walk leading into the garden belong to a group of deciduous azaleas from North America and Japan. Those in the two beds nearest the Azalea Garden have been used for breeding and come from the sub-series Luteum.
More beds are arranged in two concentric circles and are planted with the 12 different groups of azalea hybrids in order of historical appearance, beginning with the Ghent hybrids of the 1820s and following through to the modern eastern American hybrids.
Azaleas, which are in the genus Rhododendron, grow best in areas with moderate rainfall on acidic, well-drained but moisture-retentive soils that are rich in organic matter. You may notice, however, that a couple of the beds are looking a bit sad. Drainage issues caused repeated flooding of these beds, damaging the plants, but this has now been sorted out. New plants have been propagated in the Arboretum Nursery and will be planted out once they are big enough.
And one of our oldest trees is flourishing in this area too. Liriodendron tulipifera, the North American species of tulip tree, was first introduced to Britain in 1688 - this specimen was planted in the 1770s and is still going strong.
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