Azalea Japonica Kirin or Japanese Azalea Kirin (Wilson’s No. 22)
This beautiful azalea hybrid must be seen in bloom to appreciate the hundreds of years of selection and breeding that has gone into its making. Kirin is a Kurume hybrid azalea, also known as the Evergreen Azalea Kirin.
Kurume Azaleas come from the Japanese Island of Kyushu, where the legendary Akashi Nursery is based. Kurume Azaleas typically have small leaves and masses of small flowers in the blooming season. Evergreen Azalea hybrids flourish in acidic soil and prefer light to dappled shade. In the UK, it is best to plant Kurume Azaleas in a sunny spot as they do require summer heat to generate the abundance of blooms in spring. Japanese Azalea Kirin is one of the best 50 azaleas selected by plant hunter Ernest Wilson in 1918 while visiting the Akashi Nursery in Japan. This top 50 list is known in the trade as 'Wilson's 50' and many of the plants on the list are sometimes referred to by their list number. Kirin is no. 22 of Wilson’s 50.
Azalea Japonica Kirin is a compact variety of evergreen Japanese azalea. It flowers abundantly in April and May with a mass of deep pink fragrant flowers and has mid green foliage. The blooms have what is referred to as a ‘hose-in-hose’ flower type, a double flower where one flower (corolla) appears inside the other, giving a layered effect with extra depth. The flowers are a vibrant deep pink and are 25 mm in diameter.
Japanese Azalea Kirin is sometimes considered a dwarf evergreen azalea. It is low-growing but dense and will reach a height of 75 cm in a 10 year period. It has a lovely prostrate creeping habit. It looks most spectacular when tumbling down a wall or as a free flowering ground cover under trees. Kirin grows very well in containers and is a perfect addition to Japanese style gardens. It looks beautiful in groups as a mass display of flowering colour.
Azalea Kirin is very hardy once established although it may lose its leaves in colder spots. Give it a light prune after flowering to maintain its shape.