As every January, the flowering of the popular ornamental plant, azalea, has started in the Azalea House of the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia. They are the first blooms of the garden in the new year, which delights visitors with its beauty, reminding that spring is no longer behind the mountains. Azaleas have gained their great popularity due to the gorgeous flowers and flowering time – depending on the variety, azaleas bloom from October to May, ie in the “hottest” months in terms of flowers.
At the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia, in the Azalea House, you can currently see early varieties of azalea flowers. The noble bushes will be able to see all winter and spring, but it is expected that the collection of full-flowered azaleas will experience in the second half of February.
Azaleas are rhododendrons – mainly varieties of Rhododendron simsii and Rhododendron indicum. In nature, these rhododendrons grow in China, Japan and elsewhere in the Far East. Azalea breeding began in Japan in the 16th – 17th centuries, but in Europe – in the 19th century. In Latvia, its first cultivated gardener J. Juzupovičs in the 20th century. at first.
The collection of greenhouse azaleas in the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia was established in the 20th century. in the 1930s. The plants were bought in Germany, but the collection perished during World War II. The current collection of azaleas in the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia was started in 1956 by Professor Richard Kondratovich, a breeder of azaleas and wild rhododendrons and the then director of the botanical garden – it contains varieties from Western Europe, Russia and Ukraine. In addition to creating a collection in the 20th century. The development of new varieties also began in the 1970s. It is now the largest collection of azaleas in the Baltics, including 124 cultivars. The oldest shrubs are at least 50 years old and their crown circumference already reaches 2 meters.
After flowering, azaleas are divided into early, medium-late and late varieties. Currently, medium-late and late azalea varieties are waiting for their flowering stage, but in full glory the early varieties of azaleas, such as ‘Pink Dream’, ‘Helmut Vogel’, ‘Beethoven’, ‘Rosifolium’, as well as ‘Caprīze’ varieties created in Latvia, have flourished in the Azalea House. and ‘Grace’ and others.
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