The garden in early May

With most of the old azaleas flowering (below), today is as colorful as the garden gets. I am quite pleased that damage from three recent nights of freezing temperatures is slight, though it will take several weeks of growth before the browned leaves are hidden by new growth.

Butterfly Japanese maple flowers beside a long established azalea.

A spider azalea (Rhododendron macrosepalum ‘Linearifolium’, below) planted in late autumn is flowering, and certainly there’s not much to see. The flower is narrower than the leaves, so there will never be much color, but I planted it a bit out of the way knowing that only I would ever care to see it, and I’m happy to have one. A second azalea took a turn for the worse shortly after planting, no doubt a result of some failing on my part, but the one that survived is well off the main track and doing fine.

Long ago I nearly gave up on azaleas. Several were chopped out due to lacebug problems, and I only planted more to give the newly introduced (at the time), reblooming Encore azaleas a try. I would not be highly disappointed if all disappeared overnight, but they’re large evergreens that add some body to the garden, and of course the flowers are nice. I much prefer the variety of deciduous azaleas (below) that are brighter in color, with some that are so fragrant that even I can smell them.

This is peak season for Japanese maples, and I am relieved that the favored Golden Full Moon maple (below) was not injured by the freezes. A ‘Twombly’s Red Sentinel’ lost four or five inches of tender leaves, but most of the dead has been removed and I expect it will return quickly to good health.

This is the time in spring that I notice, or I am reminded by my wife, that a green leafed ‘Viridis’ maple (below) consumes an ever growing portion of the upper patio each year. No matter, no one sits here anyway, and I am certain that if anyone dared to sit on the ancient wooden chairs they would collapse in a heap. She says she sits in them all the time, but I suspect otherwise. In any case, this maple and others in the garden should serve as warning not to take the dwarf designation informally used to describe many Japanese maples too seriously. Dwarf yes, as in not huge, but many expect their maple to mature to three or four feet tall and wide. Not a chance.

The size of this ‘Viridis’ Japanease maple is not distorted by the angle. It is ten feet tall, and another half as wide. I would not dream of chopping it back as long as there’s room to squeeze past.

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