Warmth of winter blooms
I LOVE the warmth that winter flowers can bring to a garden.
When I was growing up, my family's garden contained mainly winter-flowering plants. I suppose that is why I love Azaleas.
If you took a drive down my grandfather's street from autumn through to early spring, his front yard is a mass of vibrant colours - first the Camilla sasanquas bloom then the azaleas take over.
Unfortunately at my new house I have not had the chance to plant these glorious plants.
My sister, who it seems is a little smarter than me, planted a small hedge of Azalea 'Red Wings' last year.
This year it is already looking simply fantastic, full of bloom and bud and I am green with envy.
I think azaleas are beautiful plants. They have dark, lush, green foliage and come in a wide variety of colours.
There are two basic flower types - single and double. The double would have to be my favourite and luckily most double flowering azaleas spot flower throughout the year, so I can enjoy this lovely plant all the time.
Most azaleas thrive in semi-shade but some will look fantastic in full sun or full shade.
I prefer the smaller more compact varieties that usually grow to around 50cm to 1m high.
Azaleas love acid soil; the pH range should be between 5.5 and 6.0.
Many Ipswich residents find that their garden's soil pH is too low and prefer to grow azaleas in pots.
Azaleas have a shallow, tight root system. If a good layer of mulch is applied in pots or the garden, and a soil wetter is used at least every 12 months, azaleas should thrive.
To keep azaleas looking their best I would use Organic Link - a slow-release complete organic fertiliser - every three months and I will also try to give them an organic liquid fertilise with Triple Boost every fortnight.
When azaleas have finished flowering I would give them a good prune.
Azaleas can be prone to some pest and disease problems.
A common issue with azaleas is one where the leaves lose their colour and lustre; it almost looks like the top of the leaf has been sand blasted and underneath is tiny black spots.
This is a sign of Lace bug. To combat this problem you will need to spray with an Imidacloprid-based spray.
You may need to spray a few times to control your infestation and unfortunately once the leaves have that sand blasted look they will stay that way.
A good trim and fertilise will help promote nice new healthy growth to cover the unsightly affected growth.
Petal blight is a fungal disease suffered by azaleas that can suddenly turn the beautiful flowers brown.
The easiest solution is to pick them off and throw them away.
Don't be silly like me - plant an azalea this weekend and enjoy their beauty for years to come.