On Saturday, April 9th, 2016 we officially opened our new Aromi Hybrid Azalea Garden. An extension to our existing Millie McConnell Rhododendron Garden, this new garden is filled with Dr. Gene Aromi’s native azalea hybrids along with companion planting.
The Garden was funded with private donations from a campaign spearheaded by Maarten van der Giessen, our local azalea guru,owner of van der Geissen Nursery in Semmes, AL., and Tom Johnson, Executive Director of Magnolia Gardens. Maarten inherited many of Dr Aromi’s plants, and has worked with them for more than 10 years – bringing more of them into the horticultue world for us all to enjoy. He has generously donated plants for the collection.
Dr. Eugene (Gene) Aromi was an Education Professor at the University of South Alabama, and an ardent azalea hybridizer for over 30 years. In addition to producing evergreen azalea hybrids,he aimed to breed a better deciduous azalea. Crossing American native deciduous azaleas with Exbury varieties, he made over 1000 crosses, and described over 50,000 seedlings – over 100 have been named.
Maarten has been working with Dr Aromi’s seedlings since his death in 2004, and has named and introduced more.
Bred for heat tolerance, disease resistance and fragrance, the Aromi hybrids have big flower trusses and vivid colors. The native azaleas he started with include
- the Florida azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) with its yellow to golden orange blooms appearing just as the leaves begin to emerge
- the Coastal azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum) with fragrant pink blooms and a low-growing habit
- the Flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) with highly variable bloom in yellow, red, pink or orange in late spring
- the Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens) with pink and white sweetly fragrant flowers, that grows to a tall shrub
Dr. Aromi’s work is nationally known with collections established in Texas, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and the National Arboretum in Washington. And now we are proud to recognize and preserve his his work in Mobile.
Thank you to Maarten van der Giessen for the use of his photos.