Species In Our
R. nakaharae is in Subgenus Tsutsusi, Section Tsutsusi. This evergreen azalea species has some outstanding characteristics, which make it a good choice for most New England gardens. A low prostrate mat of small, glossy dark green leaves with shiny brown hairs is best illustrated by the "Mt. Seven Star" selection from Polly Hill. The mat will stay 4-6" tall and will spread down hillsides if allowed. R. nakaharae remains small in stature, under a foot in 10 years, even in the more rounded selections, like "Bovee's form". Bob Bovee introduced the seed into the USA in 1960. Their late season to very late season flowers are brightly colored from rose red to brick orange. They are up to one inch long and funnel bell-shaped.
Native to the grasslands of Northern Taiwan from sea level to 9,000 feet, it is named after the Japanese collector, G. Nakahara. Polly Hill is quick to point out that the correct pronunciation is based on the man's name. Polly Hill has grown and selected species and hybrids of R. nakaharae to give us some of the North Tisbury azaleas.
As a ground cover or partial shade rock garden plant, it belongs where its late season bloom can be appreciated as the long days of summer approach. I personally have not had much luck with the species and its hybrids in Salem, NH if I grow them in full sun or hot afternoon sun; winter burn can occur and flowers in full sun will often wilt briefly. Usually listed as hardy to -5°F the forms already mentioned are hardy to at least -12°F in my partial sun conditions and have bloomed well over the past 6-8 years here. The mat forms are easy to protect from winter burn with evergreen branches, pine needles, or salt hay.
A named form, 'Mariko' introduced from Glendoick, Scotland by way of Dr. Rokujo, is also growable in New England. The North Tisbury azaleas that Galle lists as R. nakaharae hybrids are: 'Alexander', 'Joseph Hill', 'Late Love', 'Michael Hill', 'Pink Pancake', 'Red Fountain', 'Susannah Hill' and 'Wintergreen'.
Sally Perkins, Salem, NH