Friday, April 13, 2012
Yeah, this is why I kept the azaleas
I am not a photographer, so I can only try to color in words the way this azalea's blooms glow in the early morning light, like a silky summer evening gown worn by a woman a bit woozy with too many daiquiris but still holding her balance as she stands at the top of a grand flight of stairs in strappy high-heeled sandals in the wee hours of a chill April morn.
Or like an unpruned azalea. I don't think azaleas should be pruned much, but on the other hand they should then have space to express themselves, perhaps best in the slightly wild area in the far back of one's garden where one can look at them in April (or whatever month they choose to bloom in) from a nice blurry distance as they glow (preferably in colors that make some attempt at coordination, and not the usual glaring mismatch, but who really cares anyway) and then can be pretty much ignored for the rest of the year. Because, let's face it, azaleas are not very interesting when they're not blooming. And they're usually planted in full sun so they get lacebugs and spend their lives gradually dying. And there are way too many of them, except when they're blooming.
I now possess three azaleas, and unless I decide to put some in the wild blurry area out back, that is all I will ever have. They all came with the house. This one (I don't know what kind it is: pinky-lavender and large flowers) is a "foundation plant" in front of the front porch, where it gets late afternoon sun and not enough lacebugs to destroy its happy existence. It has a twin that is much smaller because it lives under a Japanese pieris.
Here's what was planted in front of our house when we moved in 24 years ago, from right to left as you face the house:
Two small azaleas
[Door of screened porch]
Two small azaleas
And then a yew around the corner. They had been planted a few years before, because by the time we moved in it was already clear that the two small azaleas on each side of the door had been a mistake that was threatening to eliminate passage. They must have been very cute and tiny at the garden center.
The arborvitae got bagworms and died. The rhododendron died of exposure when we had to cut down the Giant Maple Tree in the front yard. The four small azaleas I dug up and moved out back (one of them is still alive, now blooming in white under the self-planted redbud). Here's what we have now:
Pieris (has put on another third at least in size)
Azalea (growing entirely sideways but still managing to peer fetchingly out from under the pieris)
[Opening of now unscreened porch]
Azalea (mostly unpruned)
And the yew is still around the corner. Across the front: was 10 plants, now four, or three and a half if you give the sideways azalea its due. Plan for growth, people.