The former experimental site has ceased to be a fairy garden: hundreds of azaleas bloom and savor in Riihimäki
The blossoming azalea bushes attract more and more townspeople to the outskirts of Riihimäki. The number of visitors is growing, which is reflected in the condition of the soil and the delicate root system of the azaleas. The park, once an experimental site for botanical researchers, will soon be renovated. In southern Finland, the azalea park is well known and loved.
In the Vakhteristo park in Riihimäki, about two hundred azaleas have already blossomed and exude a delicate aroma. The bright shrubs were originally planted in this swampy area for research.
– People know about this place and look forward to the azaleas beginning to bloom in the spring. This is an important place for the townspeople, – comments the city gardener Päivi Sundman.
The Agricultural Research Institute at the University of Helsinki planted this plot with azaleas about 10 years ago. The goal was to develop domestic cold-resistant varieties. The botanists also wanted to find out which varieties are best for commercial cultivation and sale.
The idea to grow azaleas in Riihimäki came from the then city gardener Thero Westerlund . It was he who came up with the idea of using the acidic marsh soil as a breeding ground for azaleas.
– This is a humid swampy area, the soil here is acidic, peaty, just suitable for azaleas, – comments Päivi Sundman.
Experimental azalea gardens have been set up in different parts of Finland. Riihimäki was the only site where these exotic plants were planted in a pine forest.
Botanist Terttu Parkkali from the University of Helsinki reports that of the varieties involved in the selection and crossbreeding, about ten will receive official names. From this dozen, several varieties were bred in Riihimäki.
New names for varieties will be selected from the collection of fairy tales. Commercial planting of new varieties will begin in a couple of years.
In the meantime, all nature lovers can visit the park in Riihimäki to admire the blooming azaleas.