Azaleas in the Rhododendron Garden

Named in honor of Millie McConnell, one of the first members of MBG, this garden was extensively redesigned in 2006. This is the most comprehensive rhododendron & azalea collection along the Gulf Coast.

Early plantings now mingle with over 1,000 evergreen azaleas from many different collections, from the low-growing Robin Hill azaleas to the large familiar Southern Indicas.

Against a background of longleaf pines and assorted trees the Azalea bloom season lasts from early March through June in a succession of color. With so many variations within the collections, this garden is an art gallery of plants with samples of the hybridizers work.

The paths converge at a center Plaza flanked by 19th century cast-iron columns which once graced now demolished buildings in downtown Mobile. The hand-made brick pavers, donated by the City of Mobile Archives, once paved downtown streets.

This area was expanded in 2015 to include the deciduous azalea hybrids developed and named by the late Dr Eugene Aromi here in Mobile.

Botanical Note: All azaleas are in the Rhododendron family with many variations in size, bloom, leaf shape and color. But not all rhododendrons are azaleas.

Collections Represented:

Robert Buddy Lee of Franklinton, Louisiana, developed this popular group of evergreen azaleas in the 1980’s. He crossed Rhododendron oldhami, a Taiwan rhododendron, with a wide range of evergreen azaleas to produce this beautiful group that bloom predominantly in the fall, as well as sporadic blooms throughout the summer. They range from 3-5ft tall and as wide.

The national marketing of these plants by Jim Berry of PDSI in Loxley, Alabama, has brought these plants into the national spotlight. Our collection was donated by Flowerwood Nursery of Mobile.

These are American satsukis hybridized by James Harris of Lawrenceville, Georgia in the 1970s and 1980s.

They are medium to low growing plants with bright colored blooms during mid-spring. He has a soft spot for azaleas with rings of color on the outside of the petals and we have many fine examples of these in our collection.

Rhododendron ‘Vibrant’

Classic examples of American satsukis that bring the intense colors and variations of the Japanese azaleas into the Mobile bloom season. Stripes, flecks and rings are characteristics of this collection.

Colonel Pete Vines named this group after the town of Holly Springs near the University of Mississippi where he attended college. His aim was to produce evergreen azaleas with larger blooms, a dwarf to mid-size growth habit and increased cold hardiness. Some 84 varieties were introduced in the 1990s.

Rhododendron ‘Astronaut’

This group represents the work of Dr. Eugene Aromi, Tom Dodd Jr, and Kosaku Sawada. Their work with evergreen azaleas furthered the development of azalea hybridization in the United States, and helped establish Mobile as a center for azalea culture.

These standards of Gulf Coast Gardens display many different characteristics of bloom, variable sizes, and mid-spring displays. We are proud to display the achievements of these distinguished and world-renowned plantsmen.

For more on the life of Kosaku Sawada see Kosaku Sawada, American – an article by Bill Ray (will open in a new tab)

Rhododendron ‘Michelle Lux’ – Aromi Hybrid

Kurume hybrids take a graceful, open form in the Southern Garden. The flowers are small, vibrant and profusely produced. They are among the first azaleas to flower in the spring.

Dr. John Creech of the National Arboretum brought this group from Kurume, Japan in 1976 and 1978.

Rhododendron x ‘Yoshi-Migatake’

Nuccio hybrids are often Belgian florist hybrid azaleas crossed with satsuki varieties, resulting in low-growing azaleas with rich, saturated colors.

Messrs Julius and Joe Nuccio began collecting and hybridizing azaleas in the 1930s at their nursery near Altabena, California – a business still in operation today. Many of the satsukis in our collection originated at Nuccio’s.

These azaleas have large flowers in pastel shades of orange, pink and white. Most have a low, mounding form, although some become large with age. In Mobile they bloom in mid-April.

Robert Gartrell of Ridgewood, New Jersey, began collecting and hybridizing azaleas in the 1940s, and by the 1970s his Robin Hill hybrids were the first successful American satsukis on the market.

Rhododendron ‘Hilda Niblett’

Very familiar to Mobile, the Southern Indicas are typically the very large shrubs seen around town. Blooming in early spring, they reach 8-10ft tall and often wider.

We have many rare varieties that were available at the time Bellingrath Gardens was developed, but they are difficult to find today.


Fundraising was completed in April 2015 for the Aromi Hybrid Collection and the new collection was installed over the summer.  Please see Aromi Hybrids for a full description of this Collection.

Rhododendron ‘Frontier Gold’