Oscar and I recently made a trip up the mountain to Pack’s Nursery in search of a group of azaleas that grow tall and bushy. We found what we wanted, purchasing 20 Encore “Autumn Carnation” azaleas. The plants were in 3-gallon pots and were a nice size already, about 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

“Autumn Carnation” azaleas grow to a height of 4 1/2 feet and a width of 4 feet, which is exactly what I hoped to find. At that time, the azaleas were in bloom, presenting lovely soft pink flowers.

I had the perfect planting bed in mind for the azaleas. Last fall, we removed eight yellow rose bushes from the site, but because of the heat and drought, we never finished the job. We were unable to provide sufficient water to the planting bed on the slope, and the roses bloomed very little. We ended up moving them to a planting bed in the level front yard where we could provide more water to them. To bloom prolifically, the plants need at least six hours of sunshine each day, and that is about what this bed receives.

The very next morning, with a little hired help, we went to work. First, we cleared the entire planting bed of daylilies, sedum, one dead azalea, a few irises and a great many weeds. This bed had not been cleared of weeds or mulched this year, and was a complete eyesore.

After that chore was finished, we began digging planting holes, making each one the depth of the soil in each container, but twice the width. After loosening the root systems of each azalea, we set each one in place and filled in around the plant with the soil that was removed from the hole and tamped the soil down to remove air pockets. After all the planting was completed, we topped off the planting bed with a heavy application of shredded pine bark mulch, and we watered each plant until water overflowed each planting hole.

The next morning, we went back and removed a portion of the planting bed’s original border that was composed of black edgers. Another section of the border was made using brick edgers, so we used the same edgers and finished off the bed.

The result that I am seeking is for the azaleas to grow tall and wide enough to fill up the bed, and to provide enough shade on the ground to prevent weeds from propagating and make the bed more easily maintained. I am very happy with the finished product.

Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County Master Gardener and an experienced garden writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others in their gardening endeavors. Send questions or comments to clink43@bellsouth.net.