We have a lot of azaleas. One cannot deny their brilliance at a certain time of the year. They are stunning when flowering. They simply take up space when they are not, but that characteristic can be used positively by a gardener. Lush and green most of the year in the South, they still have leaves in the winter but not an abundance. They are stick-y looking. Serious gardeners like less common bushes.
But part of my raison d’etre is to do things on the cheap. I have extensive gardens, and propagate to populate them. Therefore I have azaleas, mostly white ones. We had a freeze the other day, a late one. Last year our last freeze killed almost all my blooms. It was the right freeze at the right time. This year only a few buds froze and only those that were about mid-age for a bud. Smaller tighter ones survived, and blooms survived. Buds that were about to open did not. Below are some babies found under mature plants about six months ago. I pulled three loquat trees out of this garden and extended the azaleas. Buds on the back plant survived, but not on the front.
The bushes above are bursting with buds. To the left of this image are the babies which are replacing the loquats.
The first time I saw azaleas, home in St. Louis where they did not abound at that time (do they now?), was in a book that my dad had ordered through the mail. It was a dream book for him. It showed houses that you could buy, and they would arrive in a railroad car. Cannot remember if this was around the time that he bought a couple of lake lots in St. Claire, MO, and he was thinking about building there. This book had a house on the front that was overflowing with candy pink azaleas. This was LONG before photoshop, but they looked totally fake to me. That is the thing about azaleas. Imagine a yellow sided house in the image of an old Florida postcard below. There was my introduction to this plant.
But more than that, I thought when seeing that book was that we were moving, and was horrified. A sophomore in high school, my needs were paramount then. I certainly did not want to move into a house like that from a railroad car and those nasty fake bushes all around! It did not happen; Dad didn’t survive long enough to do anything with those lots.
Thinking often about what he would think about my ten acres, I enjoy them for myself, but also for him. I create compositions and breed plants and generally make something from nothing.
Oh, and these are not azaleas. They are loropetalum. And not photoshopped.