Finding the right plants to balance out your garden can be tricky, but the dividends of getting it right are high and will bring many years of unadulterated pleasure to you and all those that bear witness to it. Shrubs of all sizes have many uses, and those that sit around the five foot mark are perfect for adding background texture and color for smaller plants in the foreground, so finding ones that will stand out with their own drama is always a good idea. ‘Autumn Rouge™’ is absolutely perfect for this; with a good spread and loose yet interesting form it provides a lovely green backdrop that positively explodes with color come spring. The multitude of large yet delicate papery deep pink flowers that appear are as bright and utterly delightful as you would expect from an azalea, but the real trick held by the ‘Autumn Rouge™’ begins when this first bloom dies off and the plant begins to develop new stems on which there are new buds, these also appearing on the old stems too. Then for the second time this unique plant bursts into a new round of flowering and this one lasts right through fall until the first frosts of winter. There is very little else that can boast this performance, especially as the second showing is even better than the first, which in itself is both remarkable and highly unique.
Azaleas are a flowering shrub member of the rhododendron family and have been tinkered with and hybridized by humans for hundreds of years, resulting in thousands of different cultivars with variations in height, shape and color. The natural forms of these plants are native to Asia, Europe and North America among other places and are used as ornamentals through most of the world’s warmer areas. The ‘Autumn Rouge™’ cultivar displays many of the features so beloved of the azalea but the hybridizing with the Rhododendron olhamii was a stroke of botanical genius, as the inclusion of this summer flowering plant must surely be the reason for the remarkable re-blooming nature of ‘Autumn Rouge™’, combined with many years of testing and research of course.
In early spring the new leaves will form in light yellowy green but, as they come to full size, darken to a rich deep color; their ovate form with pointed tips is smooth to the touch and contrasts perfectly with the deep red stems of the plant. The flowers appear not long after this, measuring around two inches across and generally forming in twos. The blooms display a uniform deep pink color with the slightly crinkled edged petals forming layers. The color also extends to the sexual organs whose tips are slightly darker; the overall look is one of solid and dramatic color. As these first flowers die off you can take this opportunity to prune the shrub if that is desired, however you should be mindful that the plant is now producing new stems on which the next round of flowering will occur, so make sure it’s a gentle prune if any at all. At this point you can have a tidy of the flower bed and add a little mulch to aid flower production for the next round. When the second round of flowers starts to bloom then you can expect to have them right into fall, which is no mean feat and is certainly a feast for the eyes when most everything else in the garden is shutting down for winter.
There are things to take into consideration when choosing a position and planting out your ‘Autumn Rouge™’ and for the best displays and richest foliage it is important that, quite unlike other azaleas, it is exposed to at least 6 hours of full sun a day with a little shade in the hottest part of the day if you are in a region that suffers with particularly high temperatures.
The soil must be well drained, and in order to help this you can plant the new shrub on a mound to aid drainage. ‘Autumn Rouge™’ likes plenty of water but will not tolerate wet soggy roots for long, so sandy and loamy soils are fine for normal planting but clay soil will require being raised a small amount. Keep your ‘Autumn Rouge™’ well watered as they are not keen on drying out at all. There is a natural preference for neutral to acidic soil and if this is going to prove difficult then you can consider pot planting instead, in fact there are whispers abound that these lovely bushes can be grown as bonsai if you are feeling up to the challenge!