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The House with the Azaleas

The House with the Azaleas
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
The House with the Azaleas
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

The stranger stepped out of the car last week and walked toward my mother’s front porch all the while gazing out at Mom’s yard. “Look at all of these azaleas!” the woman said. “It’s like visiting Callaway Gardens.”

My mother stood nearby beaming with pride. She works all year for this springtime extravaganza — the weeks when her azaleas explode into bloom on both sides of her Ohoopee home. They usually show up just before Easter Sunday, and this year was no exception.

On the side that divides the front yard from the garden spot, she and my stepfather planted pinkish-purple formosa azaleas and George Tabor azaleas about 12 feet apart (the George Tabor azaleas are a pale pink color with a dark pink throat). That was years ago. Today, the shrubs have grown as large as Volkswagen Beetles, creating mounds of color that form a nice barrier wall to the yard.

On the other side, they took a more creative approach. They lined the driveway with pinkish-purple formosas, George Tabors, but they also added some smaller white azaleas and some coral bells, a variety that is coral pink in color. “Adding those pops of white really makes that side spectacular,” Mom has said, and she’s right. It is spectacular.

Add to the visual appeal the fact that the azaleas are brimming with life as thousands of buzzing bumble bees hover from one flower, to the next, to the next. Birds come and go, too — using the thick, lush leaves as cover.

I stood in her front yard last week and took it all in — the beauty and the symphony of nature. My Mom is like the symphony conductor — she made this happen. And though it brings her immense joy, it also pleases the many passersby on Highway 292 traveling from Lyons to Collins or vice versa. I like to think that they look over at Mom’s yard and get swept away in its beauty. Suddenly, maybe they aren’t as stressed as they were just a moment before, or perhaps, they vow to go home and plant some azaleas in their own yards. That’s what I hope happens when drivers and passengers see her yard in full bloom.

My mother is really into plants and flowers. It’s her passion. I’ve known this since I was a young girl. She and my father planted bunches of azaleas and dogwoods all around our Bonaire, Georgia, home in the 1970s, making our suburban yard look a bit like the golf course at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters Tournament — a landscape of greens, pinks and white. Our neighbors followed suit, but no one’s yard could compare to ours — not that it was a competition. Okay, maybe it was a competition … We Southerners are fortunate to live in such a beautiful region of the country. Come springtime, the South adorns herself in a shawl of azaleas, each blossom stitched with the vivid colors of nature’s own palette. The warmer air carries hints of fresh flowers and the soft, earthy scent of rainsoaked gardens, where azaleas spill over wooden fences and sandy embankments in a pageantry of pinks, purples, reds, and whites. The small towns and farms transform under their blooming canopies, painting every corner with the carefree artistry of Southern spring. Towering pines and majestic live oaks, their arms outstretched and clothed in Spanish moss, become the grand masters of this floral ball.

Just my opinion, but it is in springtime that the South truly comes alive — each azalea a part in a glorious show that has danced through time with each passing generation.

As for me, some of my happi- continued from page

est memories are of Easter Sundays, family gatherings, and the blooming azaleas and dogwoods that surrounded me on those days — splashes of pinks against the greens of grass and the blues of the beautiful Georgia sky. I think that’s why I love to see Mom’s yard in its ornate peak.

For people like me and Mom, who tend and admire gardens, we appreciate the work that goes into each shrub, each flowerbed, and every blossom. Azaleas speak to the endurance of beauty, having weathered violent thunderstorms and the sweltering summers of South Georgia, only to return each spring, as pretty as ever — a piece of our hospitality and heritage that greets everyone who notices them. And how — how — could you not notice them?

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