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A blooming azalea column ... train your own.

A blooming azalea column . . . train your own

While in Japan in 1977, a group of Westerngrowers spotted pillar-trained Satsuki azaleas. They brought the idea home and have tried it successfully with Southern Indicas ("Formosa' and "Pride of Dorking') and Belgian Indicas ("California Sunset' and "Mission Bells'), as well as Satsukis.

Any vigorously growing azalea wouldwork. With a little tending and lots of patience, you can train your own.

One way to start is with rooted cuttings.Most azaleas root easily. Take a 4-inch cutting after the current season's growth has hardened somewhat in late spring, strip away lower leaves, and place the cutting in a sandy rooting mix such as 3 parts sand to each part peat moss. Water carefully to moisten soil, then set plant in a bright location out of direct sun and cover with a glass jar.

When cuttings are rooted (in about six toeight weeks), transplant them to 4-inch pots (one per pot) filled with potting soil. When each rooted cutting is about 18 inches tall, plant it next to a redwood stake in a 2-gallon container, wrapping the stem around the stake. Move it to a protected location outdoors. When the vertical tip reaches the height you want, pinch it off or train it to loop back down, as pictured above.

Or buy a 1-gallon-size plant with a predominantupright stem, then regularly pinch tips of all side branches.

Plants started from rooted cuttings shouldstart to bloom in about two years; ones started from 1-gallon-can size plants should bloom much sooner, depending on how often side growth gets pinched.

Photo: Pillar-trained azalea is five-year-old "California Sunset'. As main shoot grew, it was wound around support stake, then looped back down from top
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Date:May 1, 1987
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