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Posted October 25, 2020, 8:06 pm |

Azaleas are Augusta National's most famous plantings

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    Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, and Jason Day walk alongside to azaleas during the second practice round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in Augusta, Georgia. [NIGEL COOK/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

When Masters patrons have visions of Augusta National Golf Club, golf often comes to mind second behind the course.

More than 30 varieties of azaleas can be found around the course and are the most identifiable plant patrons come across.

The 13th hole, aptly named Azalea, contains more than a thousand of the shrubs.

Here's what to know about Augusta National's azaleas and the rest of its floriculture.

Augusta National's natural beauty was born in nursery

The property was an indigo plantation until 1857, when Belgian Baron Louis Mathieu Edouard Berckmans purchased the land. He and his son, Prosper Julius Alphonse, formed a partnership a year later to start a nursery.

Under the name Fruitland Nurseries, the two men began to import many different types of trees and plants from other countries. Prosper is credited with popularizing the azalea plant, which is found all over Augusta National. But the business ceased operations a few years after Prosper's death in 1910.
 
Enter Jones and Roberts, who were looking for a suitable piece of land on which to build Jones' dream course after he won the Grand Slam in 1930 and retired from competitive golf. They decided to buy the old Fruitland property for $70,000 in 1931.

The emphasis on plant life was evident from the start. With a good foundation to begin with, Roberts and Jones enlisted the help of Louis Alphonse Berckmans, son of Prosper Berckmans.

He returned to Augusta during the construction of the course and, at age 74, helped decide where the varieties would be located. According to club records, a few were already in the right location but most had to be planted.

Who's responsible for the flower arrangement at Augusta National?

According to Augusta Chronicle archives, credit should be largely given to Henry Parsons Crowell, a deeply religious business man from Illinois. Crowell, of Chicago, founded the Quaker Oats Company in 1901 and was renowned nationwide for his philanthropy, as well as popularizing oatmeal across the U.S.

In Augusta, he was known for gardening. Like many wealthy northerners in the 1920s, Crowell spent summers in Chicago before venturing to Augusta from December to May. The businessman purchased a home on Cumming Road, a short distance from Walton Way and Augusta Country Club, and it was here Crowell became intrigued with growing flowers.

Crowell’s garden caught the eye of Jones and Roberts, who asked Crowell to be a landscape artist for the course grounds. He was officially given the title as chairman of the beautification committee in 1932 – two years before the inaugural Masters Tournament.

Between December of 1931 and May of 1932, Crowell and Louis Berckmans (son of Prosper Berckmans) spent countless hours at Augusta National, selecting which shrubs and flowers would be placed.

Crowell and Berckmans planted more than 4,000 plants and trees in the spring of 1932, including azaleas, dogwoods, honey suckle and magnolias. No bud placement came without intent.

Over the years, more than 80,000 plants of more than 350 varieties have been added but 

Debunking the azalea ice packing myth

The theory that Augusta National packs its azaleas in ice so they'll be in bloom during Masters week has been prevalent for decades. We checked with a professional horticulturist to trouble-shoot the theory. Here’s what we learned:

- Think about the logistics involved. Augusta National is 365 acres big and filled with thousands of flowers and plants. It would take a small army to perform this task.
- Ice melts. (Well, you knew that already.) But the point is it would be tough to keep the ice on the plants in the Georgia heat.
- Even at home, packing plants in ice doesn’t work very well.

As always, Mother Nature will has the final say. There are some things even the Masters can’t control.

Azalea facts

Azalea flowers bloom for about two to three weeks
Most azaleas bloom between March and May
Flower colors can range from white, pink or purple to multicolored and more
Native azaleas are deciduous, which means they don’t have leaves
Augusta National Golf Club has more than 30 varieties of azaleas