Taking care of lovely, long-lasting azaleas

Azaleas will last for years.
Azaleas will last for years.
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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Pam brought our azaleas into the conservatory today. They are in pots and have been out in the open garden in the shade all summer. We both love azaleas!

It was amazing how much mud had been splashed over the earthenware pots.

They were transformed by running the pots underneath the tap in the garden and an old brush quickly took off all the gunge. I say quickly, it took about five minutes.

Pam called me and shouted ‘look at all these dead leaves, how on earth do I get rid of them?’

Don’t worry my angel, leave it to me. My old head gardener came to mind. ‘Give the plants a darn good shake and rub your hands through the branches to get rid of all the dead leaves.’

We did this and the azaleas looked 100 per cent better and they are now in the cold conservatory ready to come into flower.

Azaleas are one of the best plants to grow because they will last for years. Almost all supermarkets sell them, but larger beauties are available at your garden centre.

Supermarkets sell them in small pots, nearly always imported from Belgium and Holland.

There’s nothing wrong with them but if you want a magnificent specimen, those at garden centres are sensational and they are full of flower buds all ready to burst into bloom a few weeks afterwards.

Great, we buy one and take it home. How should we look after it?

Azaleas are brilliant in bright light but not in direct sunshine and they thrive if given plenty of water in a well-drained compost. Rain water is ideal and if you have an apartment, leave a bucket outdoors to catch the drops.

What a wonderful present. Better than a pair of socks, handkerchief or tie.

If an azalea with plenty of buds is bought now, the flowers will open for Christmas. Choose the colour you love best by having a look at the plants with just one or two flowers which are open.

Look at the tips of the branches and there will be pointed fat buds. These buds will come into flower after a few weeks.

After flowering has finished, around about mid-April, water the pot and repot into John Innes Ericaceous compost into the next size pot and your azalea will last for more than a decade.

My mum and dad kept an azalea for more than 20 years.

The ones Pam brought into the conservatory are only about five years old, but I’m sure they’ll reach 20!