Spring in Coker Arboretum

by Margo MacIntyre, Curator, Coker Arboretum

Flame Azalea

One thing I’ve learned about writing about gardening and weather is that you have to publish fast or everything will change. I wrote last month at this time and we were coming off of a record-breaking warm February and the Coker Arboretum redbuds were bursting forth a full month early. Blooming with them were what I call the “Final Four” old-fashioned Asian azaleas whose bloom coincides with the NCAA Final Four of basketball and welcomes home a victorious basketball team every few years. It was alarming to see so many flowers and leaves in a vulnerable state. The cold is always just around the corner in March and this year was no exception, so the cold nights and windy days, typical of March did descend. Nights in the low 20’s destroyed blueberry and strawberry crops and did some damage to the precociously -blooming Arboretum, including this year’s “Final Four” azaleas.

The good news is that most plants that were frozen were only nipped or lost flowers or fruit. Dogwoods weren’t damaged and redbuds are just finishing a month-long show of color. The native azaleas are fine as well. April is a beautiful month in the Arboretum and this year it will be no exception. The current display is a carpet of light blue in the form of woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata), scorpion weed (Phacelia bipinnatifida), Spanish bluebells, (Hyacinthoides hispanica), and spring starflower (Tristagma uniflora). Above that layer is the golden layer in the form of ragwort (Packera aurea), yellow trillium (Trillium luteum), and ‘Rising Sun’ redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘JUJ’ The Rising Sun).

In the next few weeks the native azaleas will put on an orange and white show. The Florida flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) with its yellow, gold, and orange blooms grace the arbor along Cameron Avenue. Surprising to some is that they are extremely fragrant, which is an added bonus in any garden.

Speaking of added bonuses, we have just purchased 14 new native azaleas for placement in the arboretum. This exciting collection includes several cultivars and hybrids of flame azaleas and others. This will create additional color in mid-April and in the early to mid-summer. Stop by and see the Coker Arboretum during its peak season and throughout the year.

Updated on April 06, 2017 at 09:11:01 am.