Ahhhhh, Azaleas! They come into bloom with their welcome jolt of color in late April/early May around these parts. What a magnificent sight they are, flowers in nearly every Technicolor hue flitting like butterflies across delicate twiggy armatures. Some grow extremely tall and wide, others are pruned into gorgeous sculptural shapes.
Did you know that all Azaleas are members of the Rhododendron family, but not all Rhodies are Azaleas? Can someone tell me why this is? I grow both Azaleas and Rhododendrons, and here’s one thing I have learned about BOTH: I have a hard time keeping them alive. Maybe that’s why I draw them instead, because you can’t kill a drawing! (Click over here to be reminded that you’d love to have your very own copy of our photopolymer Azalea set...)
So yeah, my history with Azaleas, not so great! I snapped this photo of my red Azalea the other morning. It was planted by the previous owners of our house probably 16 years ago. If you saw the size of this wee specimen of shrubbery, you might think it was planted yesterday. It’s paltry. I’m sure it needs more sun, more mulch, more acidic soil, more fertilizer, and generally, more attention. I’ve tried those things with other Azaleas around the yard, and they have all basically given me the brush.
When Lulu was still a toddler, I planted a row of white and pink Azaleas at the back of the house, taking care to give them proper space, soil amendments, and so forth. Man alive, they were LOADED with buds when I brought them home from the garden center. They bloomed happily that spring, and I pruned them carefully afterwards. I spread pine needles at their bases to supplement their soil requirements. I watered, I fussed. Within a year, both pinks were no longer with us. The three white ones died a couple seasons later.
My mom, Susan (gardener extraordinaire and cheerleader-in-chief), reminded me that the best gardeners have killed many plants. Not intentionally of course, but she explained that you have to kill some in order to learn about the various needs of the plants, to become a better gardener and really, become a student of horticulture. It’s part of the process. That said, do I have to kill that many to get where I need to be? Apparently I do. Get this, I just realized that the rose-colored variety growing in the front of the house didn’t make it through the winter after 15 years of showy shenanigans.
Azaleas: You have got my number.
Here’s a pretty white one I photographed last weekend in my folks’ garden. Good job, Mom and Steve!
Well, that’s enough gardening self-pity for one day. I’m off to go pull some invasive violets, clear the leaves from the beds and pathways, and build a few bamboo teepees for my Clematis vines which are starting to meander where they don’t belong (such as across the sidewalk).
One last thing before I disappear into the wilderness of my tiny backyard. You all have kept me very busy filling orders from Power Poppy’s all digital botanical stamp release!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for the wonderful response to our images and sentiments, for the notes you all have left on my blog and the design team’s blogs, or stashed in with your orders or email correspondence. It is very gratifying to know that my illustrations are resonating with you!
And so many people were excited to be able to work with Digis of my artwork. In case you missed it, Bloom Brigadier Julie Koerber wrote up the most A-W-E-S-O-M-E tutorial on digital images—it’s a must-read, must-bookmark, must must must must.
Thank you again to Power Poppy’s talented design team. The Bloom Brigade brightened up the whole internet with their display of Peonies, Gladioli, Gerbera Daisies, and Tulips in a zillion combinations. Their creativity and can-do spirits absolutely filled me — and many of you! — will delight and awe. They make me swoon daily. Thank you ladies!!!
Enjoy your beautiful spring day — and do share with us some of your tips for growing Azaleas and Rhododendrons. I, for one, really need to know!