A delightful azalea stroll for the present and the future
The Azalea Walk is a garden designed for the present and the future, with a delightful surprise lurking among the Flame azaleas, blueberries, and dense carpet of ferns that line the naturalistic path. In addition to the abundance of Trillium catesbaei, Bellworts and Clintonia that are native to the Reserve, we have planted thousands of Gregory Bald azalea hybrids in a dramatic and carefully designed sequence of color that is on a ten-year path to maturity.
Originally found on a high, grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gregory Bald hybrids are produced naturally by bumble bees cross-pollinating several species of azaleas, including Rhododendron viscosum, R. aborescens and R. bakeri (cumberlandense). The centuries-long process has produced bouquets of orange, yellows and reds, light and dark pinks, yellow flowers with splashes of pink and peach, and white flowers with a red center stripe.
Visionary landscape architect Gary Smith designed the Azalea Walk as a “garden room” constructed with the carpeting of ferns and woodland wildflowers and towering canopy of trees on site. Along the Azalea Walk’s path, Gary envisioned an arrangement of the Gregory Bald hybrids in groups where visitors experience the entire color palette of the blooming Azaleas in a progression of colors from warm reds, oranges and yellows to whites, pinks and cool reds. A 50x50 concentric circle on the trail defines each color grouping. Although nearly identical in color, each plant is genetically unique, with its own blooms reflecting its uniqueness.
While it will be nearly a decade before the Azalea Walk fulfills its vibrant promise, it remains a coveted sanctuary at Southern Highlands Reserve. With each passing season, the extraordinary vision for the garden grows closer to reality.
- Trillium catesbaei
- Gregory Bald hybrids
- Rhododenron viscosum
- R. aborescens
- R. bakeri (cumberlandense)
- Rhododendron calendulaceum
- Flame azaleas