Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tsutsuji Fair!

Rhododendron subgenus tsutsuji-- evergreen Azaleas

 Komuroyama Koen  (Komuro Mountain Park)

Ever since my in-laws built a house down on the Izu Peninsula, we've gone every year for Golden Week to see the Azaleas at Komuroyama Park (near Ito City).

We can actually walk to the Azalea park from the house by walking through the Camellia park...

Tsubaki... Camellias have over 3,000 cultivars...

It's the loveliest walk...                                            

  though I prefer walking there with my mother-in-law since we both like to amble
and stop to admire Every. Single. Camellia along the way...

Camellia japonica... but which cultivar?
 ...but since she didn't come with us this time,  I was unceremoniously hustled along, getting in only two lovely tsubaki photos and no time to note the cultivar name...

Ah, well-- the camellias were nearly done anyway, and we had come to see the azaleas...

 ....glowing rows of azaleas line the street...

...bushes crowded with shocking pink blooms,

...or purple,

...or deep red.

Climbing the stone steps to the top of the bottom slope of Komuro Mountain, the view is beautiful...
...then gorgeous,
...then positively spectacular.  Most of the plants are the small-flowered variety (and mainly pink, though the hillside--shown in the top photo--mixes in deep red, salmon pink, and white).      

The large-flowering variety (the evergreen azalea Tsutsuji), of which we have a border behind our building, wasn't quite out yet at Komuroyama.  Just a few, not the whole hillside.  From the side (as at right), it's easy to see that Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons.  A subgenus, in fact, though they used to be thought a completely different genus.
Rhododendron subgenus tsutsuji
Azaleas are now two different subgenera of Rhododendron, the deciduous Pentanthera and the evergreen Tsutsuji, whose name has simply been borrowed directly from the Japanese word for Azalea.
These are the kind that smell good-- that's where you'd be, if you were a bee...  I wonder if the spot pattern is like runway lights for bees, guiding them in?

some are pruned to shape, some left to grow naturally

Deep red azaleas beneath graceful willows...

A riot of Azaleas...

...framed by somber pines
A whole hillside of Azaleas

Some of the bushes are tall enough to walk under.  Well, tall enough if you are a small Japanese woman.  Or a child--I thought those tall azalea bushes looked like the most wonderful place to play house.  I would certainly have taken my dolls and stuffed animals and crayons and notebooks and spent hours playing under bushes like that when I was a kid.

...but, of course, I hadn't any toys along and so had to be content to stand under the tall pink azaleas and suggest to Cici what a marvelous play-place they would be...


  1. oh my gosh! Look at all that awesome pink! Color me jealous!

  2. Sarah-- that's what I say every time we go! Get to the top of the hill, jaw falls open:-)) I wish *everybody* could come over and see it, though...

  3. I checked your blog during lunch, and just sat thinking, "Oh, Wow!" It was a beautiful respite in the middle of my very hectic day. Thank you so much.

    I want to be there!!!

  4. Only dom -
    It is an amazing display! We are into a serious drought in the UK - the rainfall in central London for the whole of this year until today has been just 85mm - multiply by three & that is desert rainfall (defined as 250mm per year). Grass is going brown in spring. We are expecting possible 27c this weekend :( On JC's space loo post - you may be interested in the article by Richard Sauer on the Apollo Waste Management System. I cannot paste the link in but search with that or see the link on the Prof's page.

  5. Cary--glad to give respite on a hectic day:-)) Every time I've gone to see the azaleas, I stand up there saying "wow!". They just elicit that kind of response! (wish you were here:-))

  6. Dom-- a drought in the UK?? Really? I had no idea! I've never heard of London having a drought! 85 *milli*meters? Holy cow... hope you get some decent rain on the weekend. All along the Mississipi river is awful flooding--opposite problem. If they could just ship all that floodwater over...
    (Daz--are you having a drought, too, down where you are?)
    And--thanks for the link! Have to show my mom&dad ("hey mom! Finally found out how astronauts go to the bathroom in space!").

  7. It was the warmest April on record, & the records go back 200 years or so, for central England longer.
    The south east is always a lot drier because of the prevailing winds. The track of the jetstream may well have contributed to the conditions. It tried to rain today but we had not even 0.5 mm!
    I like rain!

  8. Heavens to Betsy! All sorts of weird weather events-- tornados all over the South, the whole Mississipi flooding, earthquakes over here, drought for you...

    The jetstream? That's what my mom said this morning they were saying was mostly responsible for the flooding in the US... interesting...they get flooding, you get drought. Only 0.5mm! A ra ra ra ra!

  9. Gorgeous pictures. Thanks for posting them.

    I'll tell you that Azaleas (Rhododendrons) are a very confusing genus. There are so many hybrids, groups and types that it's hard to keep up. Then there are different cultivars of each hybrid, group or type.

    The large flowered Tsutsuji you show, looks like what we call an Indica hybrid, a cultivar specifically called 'George L. Tabor'. It is one of my favorites because it's got a nice natural, loose shape which I like in most landscapes. Their foliage is pretty good as well.

    These days I often recommend new "Encore" azaleas, new hybrids that rebloom quite nicely and tend to have better foliage the rest of the time.

    I don't see any sign that the word tsutsuji moves into English (or is it Latin?) as such words often seem to with plants. Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants has great lists of many of the cultivated rhododendrons around today. Dirr refers to a book Azaleas by Fred Galle as a "classic tome" on azaleas and their history.
    I think I'll save that for later.

  10. Hi Lynn! Glad you enjoyed them:-)) I find it a confusing genus as well-- just *zillions* of hybrids and types, as you say. I saw a photo of the 'George L. Tabor' cultivar, and thought it looked exactly like what's growing behind my building (and everywhere else, including along railroad tracks). I like the shape of it, too--and the fact that it smells *wonderful*. Lovely, light, sweet scent. Kids here pull the flowers off and suck the sweet out just like I did with purple clover when I was a kid. Tsutsuji are lots of fun:-)
    As far as "tsutsuji" goes, the word seems to have been used as the name of the subgenus of evergreen azaleas (however many oodles of hybrids and cultivars that may contain!). Over here, though, people just tend to refer to all of them generally as "tsutsuji" (though they do have a different word for Rhododendron). Definitely confusing!