Garden Diary - May 2018

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Azaleas and Peonies at the New York Botanical Garden

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Today is the press preview for the Georgia O'Keeffe's Hawai'i exhibition
at the New York Botanical Garden. I park in the visitors lot , walk towards

the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Across the way

the earliest peonies are in flower. I must stop.
Here is creamy Paeonia lactiflora 'Golden Wings'

and nearby, 'Athena' has petals blushing pink at the base.

Pale pink 'Golden Frolic' also has a darker blush near its golden stamens.

'Firelight' - hate to call this shade of pink the color of bubblegum
but Pepto-Bismol is worse. Maybe Easter egg pink . . . Agreed?

Deep rich, very dark red, non-fading petals, flowers held on strong stems,
'John Harvard' is an admirable peony, variable from single to almost double.

Many other peonies in bud, showing some color as their flowering time comes near. Just a few days for lush, extravagant display. But I hasten to the conservatory where we tour the exhibition wing. Then a tram ride over to the museum building for the display of O'Keeffe's paintings in the library gallery. Lunch from the poke truck. There's a major storm coming and I have a long drive, westward, right toward it. But

the azaleas will be in peak bloom. I must visit them before I go home.

The Azalea Garden was created on a glacial outcrop. A gently sloping path takes visitors up and around and back down on nearly a mile of woodland paths that meander through a collection of 3,000 azaleas and rhododendrons from around the world. They are planted beneath the canopy of ancient native oaks, tulip trees, and sweetgums. There are understory trees such as dogwoods. A sunny, more open area at the top, then some gentle flights of steps down, and back to the entrance. Perennials embellish the woody plants - hosta, ornamental grasses, Japanese Jack-in-the-pulpits, gentians, and more.

Difficult to imagine that once upon a time the ground where I stand was covered by the Wisconsin Ice Sheet, 1,000 feet thick. As the advancing glacier dragged rocks over the surface it smoothed the bedrock and left glacial grooves and striations.

The azaleas are in such full, perfect bloom that leaves cannot be seen.

What colors! Pink, fuchsia, lavender, picotee, the petals tipped with color.

Clean pure white. Flowers, not snow drifts.

All azaleas are, technically, Rhododendrons. But not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Azaleas have flowers with 5 stamens, Rhododendron flowers have 10. Flower color has nothing to do with it.

There are azaleas with beautifully sunny yellow flowers, such as
this sweetly fragrant hose-in-hose Rhododendron 'Narcissiflorum'.

Another lovely one is Rhododendron austrinum with honeysuckle-like
yellow flowers, darker rose red at the base, stamens like antennae.

There is a paler, cream and raspberry, cultivar, R. austrinum 'Minnie Mac'.

A ideal day to visit Azalea Hill, trees leafed out in tender green
and azaleas in perfect bloom against a backdrop of glacial outcrops.

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