An Encore for Encore Azaleas
Edited by LMG Calla
As a Master Gardener, I am always intrigued with new discoveries in the world of horticulture. One of the most applauded innovations to rock the agricultural world is the creation of the Encore Azalea by plant breeder Robert E. "Buddy" Lee of Independence, Louisiana. I was even more excited to find out this discovery was made by a fellow Louisianan. Robert E. “Buddy” Lee literally went from rags to riches with his new plant introductions.
The Encore Azaleas are re-blooming azaleas, unlike traditional azaleas
that only bloom in the spring. Encore azaleas bloom in the spring and explode with color season after season and enjoy more sun than traditional azaleas but offer the same easy care. Those qualities make Encore Azaleas must-have shrubs in the landscape. When designing a garden, foundation plantings should include plant material that has extended bloom times, color variety, are evergreen, and easy care. Encore Azaleas are a big yes for foundation plantings boasting all of those attributes.
Plant breeder Robert E. "Buddy" Lee stumbled into this awesome
discovery in the early 1980s when he found a tray of azalea cuttings bloom-
ing in the summer sun at his small Louisiana azalea nursery. Inspired, he began crossing traditional spring-blooming azaleas with the rare Taiwanese
summer-blooming azalea Rhododendron oldhamii. And oh my goodness crossing he did with a vengeance ending up with an amazing 29 unique and beautiful varieties of Encore Azaleas. Buddy’s designer azaleas are hybrid azaleas cloned into cultivars. Robert E. "Buddy" Lee says that well-drained acidic soil is the key to growing Encore Azaleas. He said, “During the breeding process I never sprayed or coddled the plants in any way, only the toughest plants survived. What is the point of breeding plants that no one can grow? Also we conducted studies in some northern states after last year’s hard freeze and found that although the leaves were burned a little, Encore Azaleas sprung back with blooms last spring. Encore Azaleas are cold hardy and definitely heat tolerant as they were developed in the Louisiana heat.”
Buddy Lee began acquiring patents and trademarks on his Encore
Azaleas in 1990’s and that process continues even now as he breeds and develops new varieties of Encore Azaleas and other plants. Robert E. “Buddy” Lee is one of the most respected plant breeders and horticulturalists in North America with over 30 years of experience in nursery management, breeding, propagation, and new plant development. He currently serves as Director of Plant Innovations for PDSI, the new plant innovation company that manages the Encore® Azalea and the Southern Living® Plant Collection. He is active in numerous organizations, including the Azalea Society of America, the International Plant Propagators Society, and the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association. In 2000, the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association recognized Buddy Lee’s significant contribution to the industry by presenting him with a Professional Achievement Award; and in 2007, the Azalea Society of America awarded him the Society’s Distinguished Service Award.
Each of the 29 Encore Azalea varieties begins their performance with the spring flowering season. Once this “first act” of blooming concludes new
shoots begin to grow and set buds. The Encore Azalea's "second act" opens when these buds begin blooming into full flower mid-summer. This unique bloom season continues through the fall, the curtain dropping with the onset of cold weather. But the show goes on as an "encore" as these exceptional azaleas flower again with traditional spring azaleas and the process starts over. Encore Azaleas are the only patented brand of azaleas to bloom in spring, summer and fall. Encore Azaleas bloom thick with numerous long lasting bloom colors to choose from. They are hardy and easy to grow so use them where ever you need a hedge, ground cover or just want to add some color. Now being sold all across the United States as well as South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of Europe, Mexico, and soon in Brazil; it is safe to say that Encore Azaleas are taking the world by storm and Mr. Robert E. “Buddy Lee is definitely a hometown boy doing FAB-U-LOUS!
For more information on Encore Azaleas or where to purchase click http://www.encoreazalea.com/the-collection/.
This article appears in the July 19, 2014 edition of Data News Weekly.
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