These chairs I painted last fall just HAPPEN to match the azaleas behind them. Believe me, I didn’t even consider the azaleas when I chose the paint color.

When I moved into my townhouse 9+ years ago I immediately declared that the badly shaped old azaleas I inherited there would be banished, never to be replaced. Too common, I said at the time, and not garden-worthy after their too-short blooming period.

So I ripped them out and donated them to neighbors, which I don’t regret because they looked like crap from years of bad pruning. I just regret not replacing them with new, better azaleas years ago. But with the seven new azaleas I planted last fall and this year, including three that bloom repeatedly, I’m asking myself wtf was I thinking?? 

After all, the border I share with my lovely English neighbor is mostly azaleas, and now our joint borders look complete.  Or they will when they grow to 4-5 feet like the lovely lavender one shown here on her side of the property line. 

Azaleas may not grab our attention most of the year but they’re evergreen here in Zone 7 and they function quite well as filler plants for borders.  I’ve become a big proponent of mid-size and large flowering shrubs that create the year-round fullness that borders need and that make a garden look like a garden, not just a collection of plants. Especially for front-yard gardens that we see all winter on our way to the front door, shrubs are essential, including some evergreen ones but please, not all evergreen.

So with my newfound respect for azaleas, I visited the famous Azalea Collection at the National Arboretum during the peak blooming time for azaleas and snapped these shots.

I visited early on a weekday, by bicycle. Parking anywhere near the azaleas when they’re in bloom isn’t really an option.