(above, Rhododendron luteum, and Phlox stolonifera 'Blue Ridge')
My new favorite garden, here or anywhere, is the Azalea garden at the NYBG. Show up early, hear birds calling deep in the forest of nearly 300 sweetgums, tulip trees, elms, oaks, dogwoods and other native trees, on 11 acres of woodland. Many of these are centuries old. Paths, benches and above all, readable labels, interpretive signs, and self guided cell phone tours help me understand this immensely varied collection of 3,000 azaleas and rhododendrons. I had never seen a spider azalea before, but the sign told me it's the rare species Rhododedron 'Koromo-shikibu' of unknown origin. Likes acidic soil in full or part shade; the leaves will turn red/orange in fall. (Double click this or any image to enlarge)I visited on May 11, just after this garden's huge Mother's Day opening celebration with free music and food. But I prefer it this way; quiet, no one around but me and 2 other photographers searching for the perfect image.The garden designers have included species that will begin to flower the first warm days in spring, peak in late April and early May, continue with those that will burst into bloom through July, and reblooming cultivars like Encore in the fall. I plan to make this garden a first stop every time I'm at the NYBG, even before checking out the herb garden and perennials. WOW what a thought!Above, Rhododendron luteum 'Bee Dazzler'
Wisely, they've decided to include woodland bulbs and perennials in huge meadows and swaths so even when the azalea riot is over, the garden will be highly enjoyable. Ferns, hellebores, epimidium, allium, lowbush blueberry, amsonia, stoksia, aster, gentians, iris, hostas, and bleeding hearts, spring bulbs are but a few of the over 70,000 planted.above, Golden Hakone Grass (Hakonechloa 'All Gold')
I was never a huge azalea fan; in Philadelphia where I grew up, every row house seemed to have a few planted by the path to the front door or just below the porch. All the same size and color, violent fuschia, though some pruned into a ball shape; no fragrance, and no variety.
This garden is precisely the opposite, immense variety, showing and telling the viewer what the world-wide range of plants can be, some for low swampy areas, some for the higher rocks, full shade, more sun. But of course this site at NYBG has some slight advantage over a row house in Philly, not only the forest but the huge outcroppings of granite deposited during the last ice age.
If you're tired of the color riot, look down and discover the Shiokianum Jack-in-the-pulpit hiding among the Japanese painted fern.The highest praise I can give a garden like this is to say that although it was just redesigned and replanted from an old azalea garden started on this site in the 1930's and 1940's, the new garden looks like it has grown here naturally. Congratulations to Todd Forrest V.P. for Horticulture and Living Collections, Jessica Arcate Schuler & Kristen M Schleiter of NYBG, Laurie Olin Partnership, Landscape architect Shavaun Towers, Sheila Brady of Oehme, Van Sweden, and a special appreciation to Maureen & Richard Chilton who gave the gift to make this possible for all of us. Go!!!