Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

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Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  BoughClipper on Sun Feb 06, 2011 5:05 am

Hi. Could you help me (a newbie) identify this azalea I just bought from a garden center. My principal question, Is this a cultivar of Satsuki Azalea or an entirely other species? What are the main differentiators of satsuki from other azaleas?

I bought it for $4 as it was past bloom, which makes my identification task more difficult. I intend to let this settle down from a few weeks, then separate it into four pre-bonsai trees for a year of further development.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures...



many of the flower characteristics have been lost due to the death of the blooms...



Many thanks for any insight you can offer this newbie...
-john (BoughClipper)

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  John Quinn on Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:58 pm

The leaves are very large compared to Satsuki varieties I am familiar with. If it was recently purchased it is probably one of the Encore Azaleas that have been developed to bloom a few times throughout the year. Satsuki bloom in May-June.

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  GaryWood on Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:49 pm

I'm with John on this. It's greenhouse grown and no way to see a seasonal growth pattern but it looks like one of the AUTUMN series of ENCORE.
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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  shimsuki on Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:54 pm

I am 90% sure it is not a satsuki.




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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Russell Coker on Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:00 pm

Not a satsuki, and probably not an 'Encore' either. My guess is that this is one of the greenhouse-grown azaleas that you find at the grocery store's floral department or Lowes/HD. You'll find them with the cyclamens and African violets. As a group, I think they are referred to as the "Belgian hybrids", and they are quite cold sensitive even here. It could also be 'red ruffles'.

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Thanks!

Post  BoughClipper on Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:03 pm

Thank you all for your azalea insights.

Yes, this is not a Satsuki - as you all have suggested it was not. I did see several Satsuki for the first time in a local bonsai center yesterday. As you pointed out this one has very large leaves in comparison - probably twice as long and much broader compared to the satsukis I saw.

Thanks for sharing your comments and suggestions. I think I will wait for a couple of months - until growing season here - before I split the separate trucks in my attaempt to keep it small. I will eventually purchase a true satsuki azalea bonsai as I love their small scale.

-john (BoughClipper)

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Glaucus on Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:38 am

Why do you need it to be satsuki? You can kinda see what the flowers looked like. You can see the leaves shape and form. What do you think the label [satsuki] adds?

This is a florist azalea. It has been greenhouse forced. That's why it blooms. You buy it in winter, put it inside, and throw it away when it stops blooming. Now it will grow. You can put it outside when it stops freezing at night. But when frost comes again in autumn you need to put it inside in cold storage for like 8 weeks. Then you put it in your living room again and it should bloom.
I don't quite know what the people in the US do with their florist azalea. Do they just sell what the Belgians made or do they do their own improvements? I have heard they do sell satsuki cultivar as greenhouse forced azalea. But this looks perfectly like a Belgian indica azalea which is either a form of R.simsii or a hybrid heavily influenced by R.simsii. The Belgians didn't even know with what azalea they started working with (they thought it was R.indicum) and they also didn't write down what hybridizing they did.

Any evergreen azalea is an evergreen azalea and perfectly fine for bonsai. In other bonsai subjects we use just what nature gives us. Why do we need these special super advanced cultivated forms for azalea bonsai?
Small leave size helps, especially with shohin. But many people want large flowers on a large bonsai. So then you have much bigger leaves as well.
The main thing is you want flowers and leaves you like. Some azalea have a growth habit that will help but you don't need a cultivar that styles itself, do you? These florist azalea have just different cuttings in the same pot to help with a a compact plant. Some evergreen azalea are much more upright and open in growth than satsuki.

If you are in the US you can find many satsuki cultivar that are sold as garden plants, though it gets harder in your zone. The US also has many cultivar that have one satsuki parent and one really hardy often kurume-derived parents.
I suggest you shop around and buy an evergreen azalea you like. Put it in your garden. Then in late June or something, take and root cuttings using the new growth.
An issue is that in the US satsuki were imported for their large flowers so they didn't import the shohin oriented cultivar. If you want to make a small bonsai, maybe you are better off picking a kurume or kurume derived azalea. Other option is to find people that grow satsuki from cuttings. In Europe businesses don't do this. In the US they might, but these are not really suitable as garden plants. Final option is to buy something imported from Japan.

Satsuki is a Japanese term. It means late blooming evergreen azalea. Actually, it means nothing else. Japanese calls even wild R.indicum 'satsuki'. Yet here we wouldn't even call R.indicum hybrids 'satsuki' To us satsuki are the most beautiful of the late blooming azalea the Japanese have produced.

In the west there seems to be a split between azalea, as a garden plant and satsuki bonsai. There is no split. Satsuki were never bonsai in the fist place. It is just that over time both traditions have been converging. Still, in Japan many satsuki are styled in a way nothing like bonsai. Some satsuki bonsai are intentionally ugly as bonsai, breaking basic bonsai rules. Some completely hide the trunk. In Japan satsuki fill the roles of both what we use as florist azalea and azalea bonsai.

Satsuki doesn't refer to a specific species. Some western bonsai people think they are just R.indicum. This is wrong. Others think they are hybrids of R.eriocarpum(R.tamurae) and R.indicum. This is also not correct. They are cultivated forms of late blooming azalea. They aren't a uniform group. They don't all share the same ancestor. It is just that many do find their origins in natural hybrids of these two species. This had long be suspected and was backed by scientific research. And R.indicum is much more widespread than R.eriocarpum. Not even all satsuki are hybrids. People think that for example 'Kinsai' is just a mutation in a form of R.indicum. Someone saw this flower mutation in the wild, and brought it in cultivation. Also, not all wild azalea under the same species look exactly the same. Botanists have great trouble with classifying all rhododendron as they display a lot of variation. Species barriers are very blurry. R.indicum in the wild have many different flower colours. So do all the other evergreen azalea.
Tomorrow Japanese may find a new wild form with an unusual mutation and bring it into cultivation.
Also, some satsuki have kurume or belgian indica in their parentage.

Also, you can rarely identify the exact cultivar unless the cultivar. If people think they can tell an azalea cultivar from pictures, have great doubts. Western bonsai people are only familiar with a few cultivar. When they see some satsuki that looks similar, they call that by the cultivar they already know.

If you want to read more, you can check out my site:
My satsuki azalea site

If you have questions you can ask or mail.


Last edited by Glaucus on Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:17 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  sunip on Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:55 am

[quote="Glaucus"]. People think that for example 'Kinsai' is just a mutation in a form of R.indicum.

Hy Glaucus,
So is Kinsai a wild variety of azalea?
regards, Sunip Wink

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Glaucus on Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:42 am

There is no way to be sure unless you analyze the DNA.. It may be. Parentage is unknown and it is old. It has those spider like petals. That's a mutation.

Nature grows more evergreen azalea than people ever will. Best way to look for these mutations is in the wild because there's no way to match the scale at which nature grows azalea. Reshuffeling the genes that are already there by hybridizing won't give you these traits. There's no reason to assume that a plant will have the potential to create these spiderlike petals. Best way is to look for unusual forms in the wild. Now nature does it's own hybridization too. I don't know how much Japanese breeders nowadays still try to find new wild forms. But that's how it started off 1000 or 500 years ago.

'Gunpo' is believed to be a form of 'R.eriocarpum'. If correct it is also not a hybrid. The satsuki 'Ungetsu' is a plant selected in the wild and that is an ancestor to many satsuki.

White flowers is also a mutation. It is a form of albinism where pigment creating enzymes have been broken by a mutation. Many species have a white form. 'Ungetsu' may be the R.indicum white form while 'Hakatajiro' may have been the R.eriocarpum white form. Whiteness had to be bred in as whiteness is recessive.

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:38 pm

Glaucus,

First, thanks for confirming my suspicions as to the identity of the azalea here in question and for better explaining the "Belgian hybrid" greenhouse azalea plants.

Second, thanks for taking the time to explain how complicated and old the satsuki group really is! I don't think anyone here has ever gone into such detail and it really is great that you took the time to do it. Yes, to call them R. indicum only tells part of the story. At least it puts them in a tidy box, one that turns into Pandora's Box when opened!

The next time someone asks the "What makes a satsuki a satsuki?" question we can show them your posts.

Russell

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Is this Satsuki Azalea or other Azalea

Post  sunip on Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:41 pm

Hy Glaucus,
Thanks for this insight.
One reads about garden azeleas not that suitable for bonsai, your comment puts things more in perspective.
I to started to save those winter azealeas (mostly presents) after finding them on the compost heap in spring.
When you give them a rest in a green house they will recover and after gradually exposing them to frost
a have a few in my garden doing well.
Enjoyed your Satsuki Site, also the link to the Japanese site with uncountable varietys is incredible.
regards, Sunip;)

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Glaucus on Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:12 pm

There's two kinds of azalea. Deciduous and evergreen. I have little experience with deciduous, but I think they are way too upright and open to be ideal for bonsai. Plus, they lose their leaves. It will be very hard to make them tree-like. Any evergreen is fine.

You can even make bonsai from small leaf non-azalea lepidote rhododendron.

I would go for a satsuki azalea bonsai all the way. But only because of the different flowers many of them sport. There is a lot of small variation in the plant habit of all evergreen azalea available. But never a reason not to style it as bonsai if you like the flowers and foliage. Plus, it is cheaper and more practical than buying something imported from Japan.
It is just that Japan is both the origin of bonsai and the origin of evergreen azalea (actually China is the origin of both but hey...). Because of this they became strongly linked. But satsuki need not be bonsai and azalea bonsai need not be satsuki.

And sometimes garden plant nurseries carry Japanese satsuki cultivar anyway.

I have two satsuki databases in my links. One English by a Dutch person and one Japanese. Plus there's a few more sites with some cultivar info.

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Is this Satsuki Azalea or other Azalea

Post  sunip on Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:01 pm

[quote="sunip"]
I to started to save those winter azealeas (mostly presents) after finding them on the compost heap in spring.
When you give them a rest in a green house they will recover and after gradually exposing them to frost
a have a few in my garden doing well.
Hy Glaucus,
For the record, with saving winter azaleas, i meant those florist azaleas who have been forced in to flowering.
as Boughclipper showed us.
Because they show not nice after flowering, (exhausted as they are) they been easily thrown away,
but i have them in the ground in my garden, since i discovered that they can be recovered for that purpose.
However i never used them for bonsai, my satsuki bonsai are imported ones.
I wonder though if someone used the deciduous azalea or Lepidote Rhodondendron for bonsai?
regards, Sunip Wink

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Glaucus on Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:17 pm

Evergreen azalea need to go in dormancy to be able to survive serious frost. I had frost here last night. So your florist azalea may be getting some damage. I have been told they are too tender to survive our winters even if they go through the seasons normally.

As for the non-evergreen azalea in the genus rhododendron, I have seen pictures of lepidote rhododendron. I haven't seen any of deciduous azalea. You can use almost any plant for bonsai, of course.
I don't know if there is any difference in styling and how well they bud back, but some small leaved true rhododendron don't look so different from evergreen azalea. There are dozen of species and they haven't been hybridized extensively. Many are not as impressive in flower.

Again, I don't recommend it because there may be issues. But if you want to experiment you can try.

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Is this Satsuki Azalea or other Azalea

Post  sunip on Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:09 pm

Hy Glaucus,
Yep i got frost to.
Those florist azaleas i mentioned need two to tree years in the greenhouse and gradually hardening to frost
then they go in to the ground.(feel just sorry to throw them away)
However i prefer the imported ones for bonsai and have no plans to use those florist azaleas.
Did you have your Satsuki bonsai all winter outside?
regards, Sunip;)

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Guest on Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:34 pm

This is not a Satsuki, but a Rhododendron lysolepsis, Japanese Azalea.
Works well as bonsai.

Regards
Morten


Height: 18cm / 7 inches. Nursery stock. In training since 2002. Age app. 1960. Pot: John Pitt (UK).

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Thanks again on my azalea question

Post  BoughClipper on Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:39 am

Glaucus:

Thanks for adding your insight and experiences. I am not really that concerned that this is ultimately not a satsuki. I am very new to azaleas and bonsai and have just bought a book, Satsuki Azaleas by Robert Callaham. I am using this book as my reference on how to create bonsai from this plant. I was just wondering how far I have strayed from the species that he speaks of and how much that advice would differ from other varieties of azalea. Overall, I am still intending to follow his advice on this plant and creating four bonsai from it.

Thanks again,
-john (BoughClipper)

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Very nice azalea

Post  BoughClipper on Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:42 am

Morten:

VERY nice! I really like that bonsai!
-john (BoughClipper)

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Glaucus on Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:19 am

Sunip, I don't have satsuki bonsai. You can see the plants I have on my site. Except for 'Kozan' the satsuki I have are cuttings of 2 to 3 years I received a week ago from southern France.

I hear they do ok till -13 but in general satsuki start to get into trouble below -10 or so. When they are small and potted this may make them even weaker. Some are really hardy. Most are not. Apparently 'Kozan' survives any frost we have here in the Netherlands. This winter was really cold, but I protected most of my azalea by putting them in a shed during the coldest weather. Only one I left outside. It has some frost damage on the new leaves that were the most tender. Flower buds may be damaged, but it is ok. And it wasn't the most hardy out of all of them.
Satsuki also don't like the climate in general here in NW Europe. It is probably also summers that are too short. At least that is what I was told. This is why I want to make new hybrids that are hardy in NW Europe and that are more adapted to our climate. In the US they made hardy hybrids using satsuki. I have some of them. But they were intended to bloom large and bloom late. They were not intended to bloom with many different flower patterns. I will not select the new cultivar I grow on how large or how late they bloom.
I talked a bit with Esveld who specialize in rhododendron and maples here in the Netherlands. The evergreen azalae guy told me that many satsuki just aren't hardy enough for our gardens. Also, evergreen azalea in Europe just aren't that popular. In the US it is a bit better. But if you look in gardens you will see like 50 to 100 rhododendron before you see an evergreen azalea. Worse if you count public parks/planted areas. Local government likes to plant out rhododendron, it seems.
Because of this a nursery like Esveld won't just order a whole batch of satsuki from a Japanese satsuki nursery, go through all the quarantine difficulties, grow them out and propagate them over 10 years time and then sell them. Most will die, propagation needs to take into account if a cutting does sport after it's parent, and then they probably won't sell anyway. Us azalea enthusiasts in Europe rely on bonsai people for satsuki. Satsuki probably have more hope when it comes to florist azalea when it comes to Europe. But that is not my focus. But in time maybe I will be able to donate some seeds to a person that does hybridize new florist azalea. He said he was interested in creating some of those satsuki flower patterns.
For some reason the generally Belgians seem to be oblivious to satsuki. They say they are interested in creating unique new azalea but they stick completely to their own Belgian indica. It seems to me they are more interested in creating a cheap and reliable product as azalea taste here is not very sophisticated.

As for styling, there is basically no difference for any evergreen azalea. You will probably get Y-shapes if you separate the branches. You want to select one branch as the trunk while you keep the other branch from putting out new growth. In time you will want to remove the other branches but no reason to do it yet as that will just slow down growth in general.

Rhododendron lysolepsis is one of the many species that aren't well known. When I google I find few hits and it isn't in the two rhododendron species databases I know. This is no surprise, though. But it is a lepidote rhododendron, not an azalea. Still, fine bonsai work. AS I said it is possible but the blooms are not as impressive. This is a species. So when you get to hybrids it sometimes gets more impressive with lepidotes. Still, they can't compete with evergreen azalea unless you want yellow or near blue flowers.

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Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other Azalea

Post  sunip on Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:04 am

Hy Morten,
Lovely tree, now Rhododendron Lysolepsis is on my list to cheque out at the nurseries.

Hy Glaucus,
Thank you for your reply.
Since i got a Kozan to i am happy to hear they are quit hardy, of course potted is a different thing.
So we are happy looking forward to the Glaucus Hardy Varieties with small leaves and flowers then?
For some time i am looking for the Amoenum for in my garden as well as for bonsai.
We have them in the Gimborn aboretum, and each year they impress us with that beautiful intense color.
I heard they experienced at the Gimborn over the long years some losses to,
for no apparent reasons then maybe just our winter conditions.
Strange enough you dont see them in the nurseries these days.
Have you any suggestions who has Amoenum in stock (in the field)?
Esveld you mentioned, will probably have only quit young plants?
About the deciduous ones, i remember having seen them offered as pré bonsai material.
We found a beautiful yellow variety a few years ago and planted two of them in the garden.
Of course i chose two with a nice nerbari (you never know if i would give it a try as bonsai in the future).
regards, Sunip Wink

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Glaucus on Thu Feb 10, 2011 11:39 am

Did you also get your 'Kozan' from Esveld?

My main focus for my hybridizing is many different flowers on one plant. My personal preference is pure white with perfect red. I want to grow plants that have a consistent and balanced showing of white, solid red, sokojiro, fukurin and then a bunch that are variegated.
Small flowers and small leaves is not a goal. I don't want the leaves to be really small. And I rather have medium size flowers. Too small a flower can't show off the patterns I hope to get.

I had some trouble getting actual satsuki besides 'Kozan'. I speak a little Japanese so I was able to get some seeds from Japan. These I am growing right now. They are open pollinated 'Kirameki' and 'Hanakurenai' seeds. These I have to cherish as they are pure satsuki of modern heritage, unlike 'Kozan' or 'Hilda Niblett'. Still, a 'Kozan' x 'Hilda Niblett' cross still has a lot of potential.
I also hope to develop a really hardy azalea that can pass on only genes that make the flowers white while also only having information to make red pigments, no purple ones.

In the mean time I was able to get cuttings of more modern day satsuki. They have flower buds. So I can use their pollen. They will be very helpful.

I am still looking for very specific satsuki cultivar. For example 'Kunshi' I really like. I want to create more than just pure white with perfect red variegation. 'Kunshi' has white and red variegation on a pink background. So I am going to ask Japanese satsuki breeders that are into developing new cultivar if they have some seeds to send or if they can make a specific cross for me.
Bonsai people of course don't want to grow seed on their bonsai. And buying a satsuki bonsai myself as a student and just to grow seed is way too expensive. Not to mention I doubt my skills to keep it alive with no bonsai experience. But it is possible for me to receive pollen and to fertilize my azalea with that.

So yes, in 3 to 5 years I will have a lot of plants. Some I need to get rid off to get space. I need to grow a lot of plants as only a very few will be equal to their parents. Often an azalea or rhododendron cultivar is one of of a 1000. I can't grow that many, but I can expect some results on a smaller scale.
These plants I can give away. They will be nameless but at least one parent will be known. In general they will be intermediates of their parents. 'Kozan' right now is my main parent. You can see the leaf size and flower size for yourself.

'Amoenum' is a form of R.kiusianum or a kurume. It has really small flowers. Esveld has it for sale:
http://esveld.nl/voorraad/voorraadrhodo.htm
They don't sell 2 meter high azalea bushes, of course. I see 'Amoenum' has both 20/25 and 25/30 size pots. That isn't too small.
If you like small flowering azalea check out all the kurume and kiusianum azalea. They are all similar to 'Anoenum'
http://esveld.nl/catindex/nederlands/rhgroepnl.htm
For a small bonsai grown from a cutting I recommend looking at 'Mangetsu'. (there's also a satsuki called 'Mangetsu', but that cultivar is different with much larger flowers).

Also, if you want to do hybridizing yourself, I think crossing 'Mangetsu' with 'Kozan' will give some nice results. But expect many other shokojiro/white centers. You may get no white flowers at all.

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Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other Azalea

Post  sunip on Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:35 pm

Hy Glaucus,
Thanks for your reply,
No my Satsuki are imported Bonsai from Japan by Lodder, i am not sure if my Kozan is not a Kozan Nishike,
have to look to leaves and flowers again.
I will cheque out Esveld on the Amoenum and other Kiusianum-Kurume 25 30 pots.
Maybe you should cheque out Bauwens bonsai in Belgium they do a lot with Satsuki i believe.
For bonsai we are looking for small leaves and flowers, personally i prefer plain colors.
regards, Sunip;)

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Re: Is this a Satsuki Azalea or other azalea?

Post  Guest on Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:32 am

Glaucus. Thanks for a interesting in depth input. I learned a lot of new things here.

Regards, Morten

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