Rhododendrons and Azaleas
Geoff Bryant, author of Rhododendrons and Azaleas (Firefly Books, 2001; $16.95), writes that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an azalea because all azaleas are rhododendrons (actually a subgenera of the rhododendron family). Now that we've got that cleared up, his book is a rhododendron-lovers dream, covering history, care, and recommended species and cultivars. Color close-ups are dazzling. The book is one in a five-book series that includes Hibiscus, Hydrangeas, Orchids, and Irises.
Favorite or New Plant
Mahonia A Shrub for All Seasons
In a quest to extend the season of interest in my garden, Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) was quite a discovery. This native of the Pacific Northwest has large, stiff, evergreen leaves. In late winter it bears upright clusters of fragrant, lemon-yellow flowers, and in early summer its blue berries attract birds.
Oregon grape is a slow-growing shrub, adding about 3 feet to its height over five years. It can grow as large as 12 feet tall, but 6 to 8 feet is more typical. As it ages, its branches tend to sag gracefully under their own weight. It is at home in average garden soil and prefers afternoon shade.