Being new to gardening in 2021, there was much to learn about plants and how to grow them. I did quite a bit of research on the web, watching lots of YouTube videos and decided my shrub honoring Trixie (and burying her ash remains below) was to be an Azalea. Actually, it was my sister who was more experienced in gardening that first suggested I consider the Azalea.
I never imagined there were so many variations of Azalea’s and it was quite confusing at first. First, I wanted a plant that would come back each year (a perennial) as I didn’t want to be planting new plants every year. I liked the idea that the Encore Autumn Bonfire bloomed multiple times from spring to fall and didn’t drop all it’s leaves in winter leaving only sticks in the ground. The Encore Autumn Bonfire blooms with bright clear-red blooms three times a year… once in the spring, once in the summer, and again in the fall. I also didn’t want a real tall plant and the Bonfire reaches a mature height of 3 feet and 3.5 feet wide.
Wandering through nearby nurseries and big box stores I searched for the Autumn Bonfire but none were to be found. I was seeing lots of other plants that were real appealing and was especially drawn to the colorful array of Caladium’s and interesting variations of succulent flowering plants. Wow… I thought. Those were really cool, but I couldn’t get distracted from my primary objective.
I really hadn’t caught the gardening bug yet and would have to put off all those cool plants for later after I completed my Azalea project.
I was a bit concerned that I was planting late in the fall and perhaps should wait until spring, but was reassured that now was a good time to plant. Hopefully as the plant goes dormant for winter it would have time to establish it’s root system and should bloom in the spring.
I ended up ordering two plants from PlantsByMail.com and was pleasantly surprised when they arrived earlier than expected… one with multiple blooms.
In the meantime I continued to learn more about plants and gardening. I was learning about things like USDA planting zones, soil acidity, soil amendments, pruning, and mulching. I spent hours watching numerous videos on YouTube showing everything about Azalea’s including how to plant and care for them.
I decided to plant them next to my shed in the back yard where they would be visible whenever I looked out my home office sliding glass door. I was a little concerned whether that area received enough sunlight. Currently in the fall, there was only partial sun there and quite a bit of shade. But, I seemed to remember it was in full sun during the summer and made the commitment.
So, I dug out a spot for two plants and got cracking. More trips to the nursery with lots of questions and increasing interest in other plants.
Checking the plant in spring 2022, it looks like the Azalea’s suffered some winter damage. Visible impacts include quite a bit of brown foliage, defoliation, and brown colored flower buds.
According to the Encore Azalea website, they recommend the best course of action is to wait until new growth emerges before pruning damage. By pruning too early, I risk cutting out plant tissues that are still living and will recover on their own. In many cases, azaleas will shed the damaged foliage and leaf out in with fresh growth. I did remove some of the most damaged and dried out foliage.
By mid-April some buds began to appear and gave me hope that the plant will survive. I can see the green beginning to overtake all the brown leaves and the red buds are encouraging. It’s my understanding that blooms might not be abundant in the first season so I might have to wait another year to see this plant flourish.
By the end of April I became convinced the Bonfire was going to perform for me. I was hoping for a lush plant with lots of red blooms, and I wasn’t disappointed.
I like this plant so much I thought of planting another in my front garden area. Only… I’d rather plant something different. I don’t want to just keep repeating the Bonfire everywhere.