Magnolia Plantation group to help share popular DC azaleas

WASHINGTON (AP) - Horticulturalists from Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in South Carolina are traveling to Washington to take cuttings from rare azaleas at the National Arboretum to share with gardens around the country.

Earlier this year, the 65-year-old azalea collection was saved by an anonymous $1 million donation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had planned to remove them because of funding troubles.

The horticulturalists from Magnolia Gardens will take the cuttings Thursday. They say the plants likely have a genetic link to material kept at the Charleston, S.C., site. The National Arboretum's first director, Ben Morrison, used materials from Magnolia for his extensive breeding program to produce the first large flowered azaleas that could withstand cooler temperatures in the mid-Atlantic region.

The flowers bloom each April and May, drawing 100,000 visitors in Washington.

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