The azaleas have been in bloom in Washington the past few weeks. While I adore azaleas spread throughout a woodland garden, there are some yards that have gone a little overkill with these ubiquitous foundation plantings (like mine). I inherited a somewhat mature garden, with, no joke, over 50 different varieties or cultivars of azaleas, which in bloom, looks much like "flower vomit."
As a young child, I nicknamed my room "the flower vomit room." It had been decorated for my two older sisters, circa 1968. Painted pale pink, it had (according to my mother) very expensive 100% wool bright pink carpet that wouldn't show wear for at least 25 years (and it didn't). But my least favorite part (and no offense to the unnamed decorator), the bed linens and curtains were a blend of pinks and chartreuse and olive green, somewhat modern at that time, and to not appear overly floral for young pre-adolescent girls. It was quite out-of-style when my sisters went to college and I got my own room for the first time. I loved having my own space and not having to share a room with my rough and tumble younger brothers, but I was a tomboy through and through. Pink and I just clashed.
Pink and I still clash. My personality is much more blue, yellow and green mixed with a little dirt, er, brown. Somedays I might be a bit more red, but only if the aphids are eating my roses or my dear dog buries a bone where I've just planted dahlia bulbs. Pink is pretty and kind and gentle and delicate. In the garden, I like pink limited quantities, over there in the distance for a spot of color, or set against the backdrop of lots and lots of dark green foliage.
So my dilemna remains what to do with the wash of pink that blankets my garden for three weeks in April and May, then nothing for the remaining 11 months of the year?
Over time, a few have died giving me the chance to fill in with new deciduous shrubs with varying textures and bloom times, such as Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea and Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum, Doublefile Viburnum. The shady conditions and and mature height of the azaleas has offered space to experiment with shade perennial combinations -- last spring I mixed Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum', Solomon's Seal, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Japanese Painted Fern, Heuchera x 'Plum Puddin', Plum Puddin Coralbells, and Carex comans, Hair Sedge.
So, yes, I will continue to endure and appreciate the flower vomit each spring, if only as a launching point for experimentation.