Masterful azaleas in Augusta

Masterful azaleas in Augusta

April 18th, 2009 by Kathy Gilbert and Jay Greeson in Life Entertainment

Two men, legendary golfer Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, created Augusta National Golf Club, home of arguably the world's most famous golf event - the Masters.

Two others, however, deserve a tip of the visor for the glorious landscape that surrounds the golf action every spring.

Baron Louis Mathieu Berckman and his son Prosper converted a 365-acre tract of land off Washington Road from indigo plantation to nursery in 1858.

The rest is golf and landscaping history.

More than 80,000 plants of at least 350 varieties have been added to Augusta National over the years. Some of the Georgia pine trees are more than 150 years old. The wisteria vine, on a tree near the clubhouse, is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States and the largest in the nation, according to club officials.

The azaleas are among the most famous plant in sports. There are more than 30 varieties of azaleas at Augusta National. More than 1,600 were planted along the fairway and green of the par-5, 510-yard 13th hole.

Each hole at Augusta National is named after a plant. The 13th is naturally named Azalea.

But gardeners would be wise to avoid planting mid-April blooming azaleas.

"Most of the azaleas they show on the Masters are Southern Indian hybrids. They're tough for that area, but a lot of them are not cold-hardy for our zone," said Joe Schild of the Tennessee Valley Chapter American Rhododendron Society.

Lower-maintenance hardy choices include the Glendale series, such as Fashion and Glacier.

Encore azaleas, a spring and fall blooming group, thrive in lower elevations. Mountain residents will want to place them in a sheltered spot to boost hardiness.

Also, hardiest plants will be locally grown, Mr. Schild added.