I’ve been watching out for all of my baby azaleas, but I’ve been especially keeping an eye on the Encores I brought home. They were bigger than the rest and we planted them in boxes, not amidst the oak roots. I’m watching for blooms.
Encores were invented by Robert “Buddy” Lee of Independence, Louisiana. Like so many southern states, Louisiana’s azaleas have bloomed gloriously every spring for decades. But now, with Encore, there can be azaleas blooms Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Mr. Lee, former president of the Azalea Society of America, is still an active horticulturist. He’s Director of Plant Innovations at Plant Development Services, Inc. in Louisiana. He’s recipient of the Lousiana Nursery and Landscape Association’s Professional Achievement Award and the Azalea Society of America’s Distinguished Service Award.
To date, there are 31 varieties of Encore azaleas, all patented by Mr. Lee and all with names beginning with “Autumn”. That hot day, amidst the hundreds of azaleas at that nursery, I found two Autumn Lilies, which are white, and one Autumn Sunset, which is red. I’m waiting, fingers crossed, for the fall show of blooms.
I plot and I plan. I work under dangerous conditions. I am frequently under assault. At times, I might drop everything and run for cover. I strive to work towards the greater good.
Gardening in southeast Texas can be brutal. Heat, humidity, and potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes are problems for more than half the year and a dangerous combination in summer. That’s to say nothing of fire ants and other biting, stinging insects. Snakes, too, although they only make a rare appearance in my little garden. Poison ivy and oak are common and birds sow both generously.
Despite some uncomfortable conditions, I feel very protective of the wild in my garden. It’s important to know friend from foe, for example, venomous from nonvenomous snakes and even then, it’s often not necessary to engage. As for the bugs, it is not fine with us to hurt the good with the bad. Pesticides are banned. So are herbicides. Our beds, whether food or ornamental, are organic. And while our garden isn’t entirely native, we do have plenty of native plants that please the local wildlife as well as ourselves.
While every garden is different, they all offer challenges, pleasures, time with nature. Much like people, they have their good days and bad days, high seasons and low; and they can all be fun and beautiful if you love them enough.