Photos in order of appearance: Ninah Cummer in The National Geographic Magazine, January 1930, Vol. LVII, No. 1 (Clifton R. Adams/National Geographic Stock); English Garden, 2012; Azalea 'Duc de Rohan,' 2012.
Azaleas (Rhododendron indica) are called ‘the royalty of the garden’. The evergreen shrubs bloom in spring and the blooms last for one to two weeks. They require acidic, well-drained soil and partial sun or filtered shade. In 1925, Mrs. Cummer attended a lecture by H. Harold Hume (1875-1965) on the beauty of azaleas. Hume is remembered as one of the South’s leading horticulturists and for his beautiful azalea hybrids. The lecture she attended sparked Mrs. Cummer’s interest in azaleas, and led her to travel to Charleston, South Carolina to see azalea gardens. Azaleas then became her passion, and she replanted much of her English Garden with them. Hume advised her on the particular azaleas that would thrive in her garden. She also shared her newfound enthusiasm with her peers in Garden Club talks and articles.