U.S. National Arboretum Azalea Collection

AzaleaCollections Visitors come to the U.S. National Arboretum’s Azalea Collections every spring to witness one of Washington’s premier spring attractions: thousands of azaleas covering the flanks of Mount Hamilton in a blaze of color. The first warm days bring out the flowers, and the slopes take on a surreal, almost luminescent glow.

In 1952, the walled Morrison Garden was completed using 31,500 bricks salvaged from a schoolhouse located in what is now the Boxwood Collection. It still serves as the hub that unifies the Azalea Collection and is the location of the National Arboretum’s collection of named Glenn Dale azalea hybrids. Within the Morrison Garden, low hedges of English boxwood complement the formal design that showcases individual azalea specimens. To the southwest of the garden is a courtyard area shaded by the venerable branches of a mature lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana) and serves as an ideal spot to contemplate the peace and beauty of wakening spring.

To the north of the Morrison Garden, the Frederic P. Lee Garden spreads along the northeast slopes of Mount Hamilton. Dedicated in 1971, this garden features late blooming azaleas, primarily Satsuki cultivars planted around a small pond, which extend the azalea season into May and early June. Connecting the two formal gardens is the Henry Mitchell Cultivar Walk, named in honor of the revered Washington Post garden writer, and tells the story of the development of many other groups of hybrid azaleas, including but not limited to Gable, Robin Hill, Kurume, North Tisbury, Back Acres, and Aromi azaleas, Rhododendron kiusianum selections, and many others arranged by their informal hybrid or raiser groupings. For those contemplating landscape design, azaleas are also planted in color groupings (red, pink, salmon, purple, white, and bicolor) showcasing the diversity of size, shape, height, even bloom period of azaleas.

 

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