Category Archives: azaleas

Pretty in Pink

These dwarf azaleas look like mums from a distance.

These dwarf azaleas look like mums from a distance.

Three years ago when I visited Bayou Bend, the only stop along Houston’s annual Azalea Trail that interested me, there definitely was a trail.

But no azaleas.

What a bummer!

Pink on pink azaleas

Pink on pink azaleas

Fortunately, our weather has been kinder this winter. So when I once again broke through my 10-mile comfort radius and made the drive into Houston, I was relieved to see lots and lots and lots of azaleas.

Sidebar: I couldn’t help but laugh when a guy said to his wife and friends, “Yep, there are a lot of pink flowers. And just more of the same the rest of the way.”

Buds bring the promise of more beautiful flowers.

Buds bring the promise of more beautiful flowers.

He definitely was right in his assessment: Pink was the predominant color in the gardens.

The bees were busy, as usual.

The bees were busy, as usual.

Whether it bee azaleas . . . .

The little stingers were all over the place.

The little stingers were all over the place.

Or camellias . . . .

Love how the sunlight hit these just right.

Love how the sunlight makes these glow from inside.

Tulips . . . .

I’m not sure what kind of tree this is, but it sure is pretty.

I’m not sure what kind of tree this is, but it sure is pretty.

Or even the budding trees, that lighter shade of red made it seem kind of like Valentine’s Day (in a very feminine way).

The heart looks ghastly!

The heart looks creepy!

I think that Cupid was tickled pink!

Azaleas = Spring

It's azalea season in Houston!

I love azaleas!

Each flower is a solo beauty.

I’m lucky that right now my neighbor’s azaleas are blooming, greeting my eyes with a brilliant splash of pink every time I look outside my office window.

Hey, bud!

And the best part? The promise of many more azalea blooms to come the next few weeks.

Awesome Azaleas . . . Home Edition

JJ the organizational whiz's azaleas

JJ the organizational whiz's azaleas

I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love azaleas, right? When I was watching the Masters golf championship last weekend, I must admit I spent as much time admiring the gorgeous azaleas at the course in Augusta, Georgia, as I did the golfers’ shot-making. Every azalea close-up was thrilling!

But I don’t have to travel all the way to Augusta . . . or even to Nacogdoches . . . to see awesome azaleas. I can just walk out the front door! In our cul-de-sac, three of the houses boast beautiful azaleas in their front yards every year. That burst of color can be breathtaking! The azaleas pictured above are right next door.

Sylvia's multi-colored azaleas

Sylvia's multi-colored azaleas

At Sylvia’s house next door to JJ, there are pinkish/purple and white azaleas, a wonderful color combination.

Daisy and Tony's azaleas

Daisy and Tony's azaleas

Across the street dazzle Daisy and Tony’s azaleas. The flowers at all three houses make me love this time of year. Meanwhile, this is what our azaleas looked like at the same time:

Our pitiful azalea bush

Our pitiful azalea bush

One pathetic azalea bloom

One pathetic azalea bloom

We have encore azaleas. They not only bloom later than our neighbors’ traditional azaleas, but they also flower again during the summer and continue to look pretty good into the fall. All fine and dandy, but when the big show is going on elsewhere in the cul-de-sac, our pitiful one or two azalea blooms pale in comparison. The other yards are lush and fecund; ours looks like the desert.

But then three weeks go by, and the azalea blossoms are totally gone in the three other yards. It’s like they never existed at all! Eerie. And then there’s the little front yard that could, sprouting forth all the color it can finally muster. This week the azalea show hit town in our front yard. While the coral blooms don’t look as bright or as big as our neighbors’ did, we’re the only azalea action in the cul-de-sac right now. This is the best our front yard ever looks, and we’re glad that we at least have something growing, considering how gardening-impaired the Mister and I am. Fortunately, our azaleas don’t need any additional work or care; otherwise, they’d be dead like just about everything else in our “landscaping.” (Full disclosure: We had the front nicely landscaped, but a sprinkler malfunction and slow action by the homeowners [us, of course] killed almost everything several years ago. Yet another get ’er done for the future!)

Our encore azaleas today

Our encore azaleas today

7199-pretty-white-flwrNot only do we have the coral color, but we also have these pretty white flowers. I have no idea what in the world they are, but I think they should be called “here today, gone tomorrow,” because they literally bloom overnight and then close up within a week. Wish they’d stick around longer.

Even though the right side of the front yard looks nicer, what with the azaleas and the unidentified white flowers, the left side, unfortunately, still tells the woeful tale of our lack of gardening skills for all the world to see. Pretty embarrassing.

7200-bare-front

Photo Friday: Awesome Azaleas!

6084-multicolored-azs

When I was researching Stephen F. Austin State University for our recent college visit, I read about something that I knew we would see no matter what: the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden. As regular readers know, I love azaleas. Most of them only bloom in March here in south Texas, and they put on the most-colorful floral show that has to be seen to be appreciated. The second-best option? Why photos, of course! The #1 son (reluctantly) and I visited the garden after we toured the campus. It was amazing!

6091-multicolored-azsThe #1 son didn’t want to get out of the car to experience all this beauty with me. He hates bees and was afraid we’d run into lots of them. I told him the minute he spotted a bee that he could leave. He put up with walking the grounds with me for about 10 minutes before he said, “There’s a bee!” I looked, and this is what I saw:

One of the many informational signs in the garden

One of the many informational signs in the garden

That’s right, he was pointing to the letter “B” on the sign. “You didn’t specify what kind of ‘b,'” he said. Think this kid should consider law school like his uncle, the big-shot Chicago lawyer? He returned to the car to read a book and listen to his iPod Touch, and I stayed to snap more shots. It was like heaven for flower lovers! I saw rhododendrons among the azalea bushes and learned that azaleas are in the rhododendron genus. And now I know how hard it is to type “rhododendron!”

A red ruffle rhododendron

A red ruffle rhododendron

Most of the photos were taken with Nikon’s wonderful 105mm macro lens, which is great for both close-ups and portraits. Here’s a photo tip: Flowers are a great subject for practicing “bokeh,” which basically is blurring the background while keeping the main subject in focus. Using whatever lens you have handy, shoot aperture priority and open the aperture wide (put it on the smallest number), place the focus point on what you’d like to have in focus, and click. The effect is most-prominent when you have a lens that’s at least f/2.8, like the 105mm.

George Lindley Taber azaleas, a southern hybrid

George Lindley Taber azaleas, a southern hybrid

After awhile, I switched to the Nikon 50mm lens to get a wider view, all the while wishing I had a true wide-angle lens with me (my Nikon 17-55mm lens would’ve worked great, but I didn’t bring it because I wanted to travel light).

White and purple azaleas

White and purple azaleas

Did you know that there are yellow azaleas (they look more orange, though)? These are called “golden azaleas.”

Golden azaleas

Golden azaleas

All in all, the eight-acre Mize Azalea Garden made the trip extra-special for me. I’m glad #1 and I traveled to Nacogdoches when the azaleas were at their most brilliant. It made for a wonderful photo memory. Plus I’ll be sure to “be” more specific with #1 when we’re looking out for those pesky buzzers!

Dwarf lavender azaleas

Dwarf lavender azaleas