Glory Hounds

Posted by & filed under Natural Areas, Shrubs.

Kuruma Azalea 'Hinode Giri'We are in the middle of April and the crowds are finally here.  LOTS of people came to the Garden this past weekend.  The parade of people continues, with only the occasional downpour chasing them away temporarily.  They all come to enjoy the spring weather, the beautiful flowers and probably those fuzzy eaglets way up in the tree. Oddly, us dandelions are NOT appreciated enough when we are a fuzzy gray.

Anyway, blooms are popping out everywhere and people ooh and aah over the tulips, dogwoods, redbuds and other spring beauties.  But the big draw is of course the azaleas.  They are found everywhere in the Garden and are a wonderful range of colors.  However, some of the best spots to find them are in Mirror Lake, Enchanted Forrest and the Rhododendron Glade.

Mirror Lake is the site of the original Garden and has the earliest and oldest plantings.  Right now there are lots of Kurume azaleas in bloom.  The vivid purplish red of ‘Hinode Giri’ is very intense compared to the crisp white of ‘Snow.’ The ‘Pink Pearl’ is another beauty still in its prime, but the strong red of the ‘Flame’ is starting to fade this week.  Near the new WPA memorial, a large clump of ‘Hinomayo’ shows off its purplish pink flowers.  Some of the Southern Indian hybrids are starting to enjoy their reflection in the waters of the lake, while the Sims azaleas crowd the road with their boisterous flowers.

The Enchanted Forrest is where many of the other old azaleas were moved to when the airport expanded years later.  The dominant flowers at the moment are two Kurumes – ‘Snow’ and the strong pink hose-in-hose flowering ‘Coral Bells.’ A tour of the loop, however, shows that a good many more azaleas have yet to put out their flowers.

And of course the Rhododendron Glade features many azaleas because azaleas are really just a type of Kurume Azalea - Coral Bellsrhododendron.  That reminds me of an old plant joke.  How do you tell an azalea from a rhododendron? . . .  I guess I better not tell the punch line in mixed company (you know – plants and people).  If you really want to know the difference, check here.

I always laugh when I hear people ask a gardener when the azaleas will be at their peak.  There are so many different types and they bloom at slightly different times. The Sims azaleas have been blooming for a long time.  The Kurumes are very strong right now while the Tabors will peak in about two weeks. And of course that’s not counting all the other groups and species like the native azleas, the Varnadoe Pink and others.  Since there is no one peak time, there are always thousands of blooms the entire month.  I guess you can say all of April is a peak time.  Maybe that is why the staff decided to have month long celebration.

Sims AzaleaBecause everyone wants to come see them, the azaleas are full of themselves.  Arrogant doesn’t begin to describe them.  And this year the Sims Azalea is the worst.  The Garden staff decided to make this the Signature Plant at their annual plant sale.  They propagated hundreds of cuttings from the plantings in the Garden and now have them ready to sell to anyone who wants a piece of the Garden to take home.  They are beautiful plants.  The flowers vary from a purplish red to white and have flecks and stripes on their petals.  They are great growers and are tough so I can understand why the staff wants to share them.  But they are so cocky now, they are unbearable.  I hope the Garden does sell all of these plants – we don’t need any more of that attitude back in the landscape.

Don’t tell them this, but in spite of their attitude, the azaleas are truly beautiful.  I really do enjoy the show they put on.  I’m just not going to tell them.  So come out and enjoy the Garden and all the azaleas. Just take the time to appreciate the rest of us too.