I Brake For Specimen Plantings

Do you know those bumper stickers that say things like "I brake for yard sales"? What about "I brake for Bigfoot"? There are endless, silly bumper stickers that cater to a broad spectrum of interests out there.

If I had one, it would have to say something like "I break for specimen plants". Or maybe "I break for specimen plantings" because I like mass plantings as well, and they can be a specimen of sorts—a fine example of how I think a mass planting could be used as a focal point. Similarly, a single specimen plant can be considered a specimen planting. Ok, enough of the semantics, "I brake for specimen plantings," it is.

Yesterday, I was driving down Henderson Mill Road, and something bright orange caught my eye amongst the waning, white-and-pink azalea and freshly flushed, green foliage everywhere. About half a second later, I knew I had spotted an enormous native azalea specimen in full bloom. About two seconds later, I decided to stop by the next day to snap a picture for my new Calendly profile picture. It was an opportunity I could not miss.


To me, native azaleas are the unsung heroes of the spring woodlands. They serve nobly, braving the harsh conditions from dry, sunny woodland edges to low light lowland riparian areas. They are deciduous shrubs with flowers that range in colors from white to pink, orange, salmon, and orange. There are about thirteen varieties native to Georgia, and it is even the official wildflower of the state. While native azaleas are easy to spot in the spring and are primarily available at garden centers at that time, they will establish much better if installed in the autumn.

The specimen I found this week appears to be a Florida Flame Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum)

and is several decades old. If I had to guess, I would say at least 30 years old, but it could be 50 or more years. If you would like to know where it is, subscribe to my website and send me an email requesting its location. That way, you can mark your calendar for next mid-April if you would like to witness it in full glory. I think it would be worth visiting in other months to admire its form, foliage, and size.

Imagine if this native azalea was never planted those many years ago. Imagine who installed it and where they are now. Are they even still alive? Their thoughtful planting on that day many decades ago was a bright delight for me on this glorious spring day.

I got my selfie (even though I'm not a big fan of them) but wound up going with the one I took in front of a Double File Vibrnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum) earlier today. Orange looks great on the native azalea, but I think it makes me look fat. Haha.


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