The azalea was first brought to our part of the world from China and Japan in the late 18th century. At that very moment the cultivation of ornamental plants in the Ghent area was enjoying its heyday. In combination with the proximity of the town and the good infrastructure, this provided the ideal circumstances for growth. In addition, the climate and the soil type seemed to be just right for azaleas. And so the Ghent azalea was born! Thanks to abundant research and improvement, the present range is huge. Flemish nurserymen have played an extremely important part in this.
Recognised regional product
Almost 85% of today’s European azaleas come from East Flanders. In 2010 the Ghent azalea was designated with a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). This made it the first European ornamental plant product to be so recognised. To be able to offer an azalea as a Ghent azalea, both the plant and the nursery have to comply with strict quality requirements. In other words, when you buy a Ghent azalea you are taking home a local product of top quality!
Environmentally friendly grown
During cultivation, economical use is made of energy and plant protection products. For example, a combination of organic and chemical pesticides is used. Azaleas are grown in outdoor conditions for much of the year. It is only in frosty periods that the greenhouses are heated to prevent the temperature falling below 0°C.
It is only at the end of the process, when the azaleas are brought to flower, that the greenhouses are heated to 18 or 20°C and extra lighting is employed. But this period only lasts about 2 to 3 weeks out of a total cultivation process of 12 to 18 months. In addition, this is a characteristic local product for which minimal transport is needed. So it’s quite a low-energy plant with a small ecological footprint!