Encore Azaleas

Why I Hate Encore Azaleas

Here’s why I hate Encore azaleas: They are, for me, the cheerleaders of this whole bloom-all-dang-summer long mentality. How can a gardener hate that, you ask? Read on.

I remember my grandmother’s azaleas coming into bloom and her comment that always followed that event, “Corn soon.” She meant it wouldn’t be much longer before she’d be planting corn. The azaleas were in bloom, summer was around the corner. She told time through the seasonal blooming of plants. Frost on the pumpkins? Get the gourds off the vines. Forsythias in bloom? Get the pruners ready for the roses.

This bloom, bloom, bloom business takes away from the anticipation of what’s happening, or will happen in the garden.

My cherry trees are spectacular in spring, and because I know they have a short bloom time, I take my chair, I go outside, and I sit. I don’t miss it. Last year, the youngest son and myself spent most of the spring in the back yard, chairs perched under those trees (their canopies cover the entire back yard). When the blooms fell off and covered the ground to look like snow, we sat there still. It was a symphony of beauty, dazzling us in the backyard, from the first crack of a bud, to the final drop of the last bloom. No, I don’t want those trees blooming all summer because then the symphony would start to wane, and like the mountains that surround my home, I’d take it for granted. They would be like paint on the wall. Pretty, but background.

Some of you will argue that if plants re-bloom, then you can be assured of bloom.  The point is that some plants bloom on old wood, which is why you don’t prune them in the fall or early spring (you do so after blooming). These plants are susceptible to spring frost killing the buds, and there goes your bloom for that year.

I think that argument pales, too. You know how we all remember the Blizzard of 93? We also remember the year the cherry trees did not bloom, and yes, it was sad. But again, it is another way we tell time. That year was a harsh spring, but the next one made up for it. Like the fall leaves. One year stunning, the next not really. We talk about it. We remember life events surrounding it.

There is an organic relationship between the seasonal blooming of plants and the moments of our lives. 

Here’s my final thought on it. Allowing nature to be nature gives us a rhythm to life that well, in my book, lets us stop, look, breath. Nature creates something for us to see, to gaze upon, like a blooming cherry tree, and in so doing, it creates a space we can enter into and be. That space becomes a moment. We tell time by the moments of our lives. How do we ever think that is not enough?