The Kinney Azalea Gardens are located at 2391 Kingstown Road, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881. The house at 1381 Kingstown Road was designed by Lorenzo and Elizabeth Kinney. They moved in soon after their marriage on March 18, 1927. The first azalea and rhododendron plants came shortly, with help from Mr. Kinney's father, whose plants from the Lowland Rhododendron Farm were already beautifying estates around Rhode Island. Mr. Kinney, Sr. was the first professor of botany hired at the then Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.
The Azalea Gardens really started to develop after Mr. Kinney retired from his job as State Leader of 4-H Clubs in Rhode Island in 1955. This second career let him pursue his hobby of developing varieties of azaleas that would be hardy for Rhode Island. The desire came from seeing the plants growing in Elizabeth's native Virginia and visiting some of the famous estates in the south with their extensive plantings of azaleas.
Over the years, Mr. Kinney, with help from many high school and college students, planted azaleas in the gardens. Many of the plants were obtained by Mr. Kinney after he visited azalea gardens around the southeast where other people were developing new varieties. Over 800 cultivars and species of Azaleas are now available at the nursery, including the K-Series, those developed by Dr. Kinney. Additionally, many rhododendron cultivars and species, Mountain Laurel and leucothoe are also grown and are available for sale. Azalea hybrids in cultivation include: Dexter, Hagar, Kurume, Satsuki, Exbury, Hershey, Linwood, Shammarello, Gable, Jaynes, Mehlquist, Weston, Girard, Kehr, North Tisbury, Glenn Dale, Kinney and Robin Hill.
Dr. Susan Gordon, an adjunct professor in the plant science and landscape architecture programs at the University of Rhode Island, worked closely with Mr. Kinney for many years. She now manages the Gardens and also does research on the plants. After Dr. Kinney's death in 1994, at the age of 100, proprietorship of the Gardens was transferred to Tony and Betty Kinney Faella, who maintain the Kinney family's interest in horticulture.
For 34 years, Elizabeth and Lorenzo Kinney hosted an Azalea Tea on a Sunday in May. The Kinney family is continuing the tradition, inviting friends to wander around the pathways and admire the many colorful varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons. The Azalea Gardens are always open for those who wish to see the flowers.
The Gardens are supported through sales and donations. Most plants at the Gardens can be purchased. Plants are priced according to age. Prices start at $15.00 for four-year olds and go up to about $600.00 for backhoe sized material. Delivery and installation of plant material can be arranged if necessary. Plants are not guaranteed unless planted by a member of the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association.
For information, plant sales or directions: (401) 783-2396; (401) 782-8847
From "The History of the Kinney Azalea Gardens" and "Kinney Gardens Handout."