Tag 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!

The College Journey Redux

So welcoming!

Didn’t we just do this dance a few years ago? Same time of year but different places?

We sure did: The University of Texas, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Stephen F. Austin State University. Those were the colleges we looked at when our older son, who eventually chose UTSA, was a high school junior. Now it’s his younger brother’s turn to send my maternal emotions on a roller coaster ride.

Must I climb aboard?

The Mister studies a far-different campus map than when he walked the sidewalks.

Last Saturday we took those first tentative steps towards a collegiate destination for my #2 son by attending the University of Houston’s Preview Day. UH is less than an hour away, depending, of course, on traffic. My younger boy always has wanted to be a Cougar for one reason: It’s the Mister’s alma mater. But he hasn’t spent much time on the campus. The day finally had arrived to see if reality jibed with his long-lived fantasy.

Michael and my son check out the grounds.

It was nice for us to see other students from my son’s high school also attending the Preview Day, which attracted a big crowd. We toured the campus with his friend Michael (who he’s known since elementary school) and his dad, who coached both boys in flag football one season. Seems like it was only yesterday.

After spending time listening to the recruiting pitch (which included the spirited pep band playing an overkill three times), we attended an academic session. My boy chose the College of Technology; the digital media technology degree is right up my alley! We ate lunch at the impressive dorm cafeteria with my older son’s good friend Josh and his girlfriend Leslie, who had plenty of words of wisdom for us. I really came away very impressed with UH and definitely could see my baby boy matriculating there.

In fact, all three of us enjoyed our visit on campus.

Sheer beauty!

For me, it helped that there were azaleas posing for my Nikon 50mm lens.

Dad and son are glad the fierce cougar is just a statue.

The Mister, who is proud of his hometown school, would love for his son to walk in his footsteps.

As for the kid?

It’s bowling time!

He found the game place in the University Center and immediately wanted to bowl. After a couple cheap games, he had made up his mind.

“I don’t need to visit any more colleges,” he declared as we drove back home.

But we will see a couple more, so he can compare them to UH. After all, Texas State boasts a club disc golf team!

Has Spring Sprung, Part II

Different-colored azalea bushes coexist.

Even though bluebonnets are my favorite harbinger of spring, I must admit I’m also partial to another plant this time of year.

I love the pink ones.

Azaleas! Last Sunday when I wasn’t snapping pix of bluebonnets, azaleas commanded my divided attention.

Orange azaleas remind me of my alma mater, the University of Illinois.

It was great to see so many colorful blossoms. I like how they perk up the green landscape.

These whitish-pink azaleas still need to bloom.

Know what was great about this particular patch of azalea bushes?

Pretty pink buds promise more blooms.

All of the buds! Soon there will be so many more azalea flowers to oooh and aaah over.

I can’t wait!

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.

Camellias—Not Azaleas—Are the Bees’ Knees

Something seems to be missing on this azalea shrub!

Last weekend was the annual Azalea Trail in Houston’s trendy, pricey River Oaks area. I was so excited to photograph the stop at Bayou Bend’s gardens, because I love azaleas. But I wondered if there would be much beauty to look at due to our January freezes.

A few azalea shrubs are early bloomers.

Sadly, there were a lot of bare azalea shrubs that needed at least another week to blossom. But some azaleas were nice enough to make an appearance. Not a lot, but some. And they were pretty.

Fortunately, Bayou Bend isn’t just about azaleas.

Ornamental magnolias were plentiful.

The gardens, instead, were filled with plenty of ornamental magnolias.

Pink camellia

As well as tons of camellias.

A deep pink camellia

The camellia is the state flower of Alabama.

Pretty in pink camellia . . . with more waiting to bloom

The Texas state flower is the bluebonnet.

Camellias even can be two-toned!

But there are no bluebonnets at Bayou Bend (not that they’re in season yet, of course).

Yet another in a long line of pretty camellias

Just lots and lots and lots and lots of camellias.

Sidebar: Can you smellia camellias? I never got close enough to find out! Why? You’ll see in the last two photos.

Star magnolias

Plus a few star magnolias.

Hydrangeas

And some hydrangeas.

Even without their renown azaleas, the Bayou Bend gardens were alive with color. In fact, they reminded me of the beauty of a Shakespearean quote:

Two bees in (what else?) a camellia flower

“Two bees or not two bees, that is the question!”

Camellias are the bees’ knees!

Bee-yutiful!!

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

Another College Visit

#1 son should be used to posing by now!

#1 son should be used to posing by now!

Saturday the #1 son, who you may recall is a high school junior, and I drove northeast 167 miles one way to visit Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, which is in the piney woods of east Texas. Or “Naco-nowhere,” as it’s sometimes called. It is out in the middle of nowhere, suddenly popping up as you drive down Business 59. Nacogdoches is a quaint village, billing itself as the oldest town in Texas. But we weren’t visiting as tourists; we were there to see the third college possibility for #1.

new-6026-azaleaThe event we were there for was SFA’s Saturday Showcase for high school juniors and seniors. It was a great chance to see the campus and all it has to offer. The SFA administrators are no dummies—they scheduled the event at the perfect time to show off their campus, which is lined with hundreds if not thousands of azalea bushes.

Bluebonnets aren’t the only harbinger of spring in Texas; azaleas are in full bloom at the same time, and they’re gorgeous! Every March I look forward to the azaleas blooming, so I loved walking on a campus where there was a veritable rainbow of colors at every turn. The surly #1 son couldn’t be bothered with even noticing the beauty all around him, of course. I had brought my Nikon D300 and my Nikon 105mm macro lens anticipating a great photo op, and I wasn’t disappointed.

A campus awash in color!

A campus awash in color!

new-6043-sfa-azaleas

newest-6044-sfa-red-azaleas

This is just a minute sampling of all the different azaleas we saw on SFA’s campus. We also viewed the requisite statue of the big guy himself, Stephen F., aka the father of Texas. I wonder what he would think if he knew he had a university named after him, as well as a city and any number of streets.

6038-tb-sfaIn a nutshell, SFA’s campus is really pretty. Small but pretty. It has almost 12,000 students, and I can see why so many of them love their school.

Driving back the 167 miles, the #1 son and I chatted about the schools we had seen. It looks like we’ve taken a Goldilocks and the Three Bears approach to finding the college that fits him best: One was too big (University of Texas at Austin), one was too small (Stephen F. Austin), and one was just right (University of Texas at San Antonio). Yes, #1 has decided he wants to matriculate at UTSA. Its music technology certificate was a big selling point for him, just what he needs to help him with his future songwriting career. I’m going to keep an open mind just in case he changes his mind, but for now: Go, Roadrunners!

Axe ’em, Jacks!

sfa-axe-mascotSFA’s mascot is the lumberjack, no surprise out in the piney woods. At our orientation seminar, every speaker ended his or her spiel by yelling out, “Axe ’em, Jacks!” My friend Paula D., who is from Louisiana, pronounces “ask” as “aks,” slightly dyslexically. If she heard the “Axe ’em, Jacks,” slogan, she’d say, “Aks ’em what?”

March Madness

new-detroitfinal4logoNow I know why the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is really called “March Madness”: You can’t help but get angry when the teams you’ve picked in your pool get knocked out! Yes, I am talking about you, Pitt! Can’t hit free throws? Can’t play defense with five seconds left? Come on, guys! You broke my heart . . . and busted my bracket. And now I’m on the verge of losing my title as best family basketball prognosticator to the Mister!

Going into this weekend’s Final Four, I’m leading in the family playoff pool with 74 points. I had done great predicting the Sweet 16, then got my butt kicked in the Elite Eight. All my picks are back on their respective college campuses, thinking about how much they’ve disappointed me, no doubt. Meanwhile, the Mister, who has 71 points, still has North Carolina alive and winning the national title. In our pool, that would be worth 15 points (5 for the semis and 10 for the championship). All the Tar Heels have to do is beat Villanova in the semis, and the Mister is our champ.

It will be a sad day in the house if that happens. I’ve suddenly become a HUGE Villanova fan. Go, Wildcats!