Starting an azalea breeding project


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I am starting with both bonsai and azalea in general from the ground up. Creating new trees from seeds and cuttings.

But hybridizing new azalea cultivars has also really grabbed me. Being located in the Netherlands, azalea don't seem to be very popular as garden plants. Rhododendrons are way way more popular and are in every garden. Added to that, nurseries are mostly very conservative. Most azalea are European bred hybrids tracked down to species seed and one of the few kurume that made it to Europe from Japan a long time ago. But some to me more interesting ones have come from the US that have satsuki blood.

Despite that I was able to acquire several azalea that interest me. I have 'Canzonetta', 'Hilda Niblett', 'Olga Niblett', 'Nancy of Robin Hill', 'Kozan' and 'Louisa'. I also acquired kaempferi seeds collected from the wild in Hokkaido a while ago but germination rate on the first batch was only 10% while Rhododendron seeds getting the same treatment are above 50% for sure.

I have been on a quest to find a source of new genetic material. So far it seems I will be successful at that. Of course pollen donations will have to wait till next spring and bonsai people won't ever develop seed pots.
Of course satsuki are amazing because of their sakiwake quality of having solid white flowers, solid coloured flowers and everything in between. I am most amazed by the pure white flowers with deep red sports/variegation/solids. This will also be my main breeding aim. Wide lobed non-wavy petals with single flowers, pure white throat and deep red for colour.

After succeeding with rooting cuttings from maples, I have so far failed to root azalea cuttings. It seems the current ones are also wilting. Not sure if this is bad luck but advice sometimes seems to contradict. I may try to make some more cuttings in the next week. Waiting till after next summer will delay my first azalea bonsai.

Azalea have really put bonsai on the back seat for me, which is good because both are slow hobbies.

Anyone interested in the same thing, feel free to contact me. As of now I have basically no experience but I have been able to gather quite a bit of knowledge already. There is of course so much to learn. In a year I will also have seeds to exchange.

For those who are curious, this is what a cute 2 month old azalea seedling looks like:

It may be the only picture of a very young azalea seedling on the whole internet, but pardon the limited macro capabilities of my digital camera.
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