Native Azaleas

Native azaleas might just be my new favorite spring bloom. There are 15 native azalea species on the east coast, and they are characterized by their unique bloom geometry (clusters, versus one bloom per stem).  In China, the azalea is symbolically known to be the “thinking of home bush” (xiangsi shu), and has been crystallized in both poetry and literature.  I’m struck by the delicate beauty and quietness of native azaleas, in contrast to other azaleas that look like a carpet of pink blooms this time of year.  Here are two bushes that are blooming in the garden now:

native azaleas

native azalea 2

“Whenever he had time, he would retreat into the garden and water the flowers.  Every day he would sprinkle every one of the hundred or so azaleas in the garden; early in the morning or late in the afternoon you could see that giant form of his moving back and forth among the flowers, alone. His head bowed, his body slightly stooped, with a long-handled bamboo dipper, one after the other, splash after splash, very slowly, very carefully, he watered those azaleas he had raised with his own hands.  No matter who spoke to him, he would ignore them.”

From “A Sea of Blood Red Azaleas” in Taipei People by Pai Hsien-yung.  The story is as elegant and spare as native azaleas, although considerably more tragic. (It can be found on Google Books, too.)

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About Ashley in Open Lotus Garden

Organic and biodynamic gardener, writer/editor, lover of nature, animals, and the world.
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3 Responses to Native Azaleas

  1. P'funk says:

    beautiful pics!

  2. I love azaleas and rhododendrons. We have some really pretty native ones here in Oregon. Unfortunately, they’re highly poisonous to goats, so I’m too cautious to plant any around the house. I have to settle for admiring the ones in town.

  3. @Camille! I had NO idea that they were poisionous to goats! I’ll have to keep that in mind, because I’m hoping to have some of my own goats within the next year or two. Lots to learn about them first, though…part of the reason I like what you share on your blog so much!

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