Whatīs looking good in May - June

In Southern England, this is the peak season. As the earlier species and the evergreen azaleas finish, they are replaced by the Hardy Hybrids, the great stalwarts of the Edwardian gardens and the town parks. Eventually forming solid banks of evergreen and so ideal for boundaries and screening, they are tough and reliable, tolerating exposure and some summer drought and flowering freely every year.

Examples are the rich reds of Lord Roberts and Kluis Sensation, the ever-popular Pink Pearl and Sappho, nearly white with a very marked deep purple blotch. Lady Eleanor Cathcart is a delicate pink with yellow blotch and the well-named Moserīs Maroon has the added bonus of purple tinted stems and young leaves after the flowers have finished.

These Hardy Hybrids will stay compact for many years and are often used in smaller gardens, but Rh. yakushimanum and the many varieties bred from it are more reliably compact and so good for small places and in the front of other shrubs. They form compact mounds with interesting foliage, often with a thick indumentum, like fawn felt, on the underside.

The original Rh. yakushimanum is unbeatable for form and foliage and flowers reliably, pink fading to white. There is a whole range of colours bred into the hybrids, the peachy colours of Percy Wiseman make it very popular, as is the salmon of Surrey Heath, and of course the Seven Dwarves.

There are evergreen azaleas which flower at this time, but it is the Deciduous Azaleas that steal the show now, flourishing equally in moist shady woodland sites and in more open, exposed and dry positions. They stay compact, only exceeding 5 ft in ideal conditions and after many years. The hot, flame colours of yellows, oranges and bright reds make a superb show, eg. Golden Eagle, the orange double Gena May and the red Royal Command. There are also pastel shades of white and pink, such as Irene Koster, Exquisitum and Jolie Madame, all deliciously scented, as is that great favourite, Rh. luteum with its prolific yellow flowers that scent the air all around it.

At Leonardslee it has been planted very widely and covers several acres with no maintenance or watering required, despite the thin, dry soil under the pines and larches. Another great asset of all the deciduous azaleas is their rich autumn colours, reds and yellows, giving a second season of colour.

For something more unusual, Golden Coach has large, golden yellow flowers, Lady Chamberlain Waterfall has clusters of rich pink hanging bells and Fairylight magnificent trusses of bright pink, trumpet-shaped flowers.