Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Trademark of Maine Spring
I love the pink-to-magenta blossoms of azalea. They seem a trademark for mid-spring. But consider those still-raw, new settings where people cut all the trees, build a house and throw a few shrubs in the ground almost as an afterthought. Most of the time the shrubs they (or their landscapers) choose are azaleas. It all seems so artificial and contrived.
Enter rhodora, Rhododendron canadense. These have similar-colored flowers and bloom at exactly the same time as the azaleas that people plant. Rhodora has some interesting points, too. The flowers set on before the leaves fully develop, giving the plant a singular beauty when in full bloom. A close look at a flower reveals the top three petals are joined, forming an upper lip. The two bottom petals are nearly or completely separate. And the 10 stamens add a bristly, flowing appearance.
By now, readers may guess what form of “rhody” grows at my place. Of course, it is rhodora. These wild, native shrubs thrive in wet ground and my place has plenty of damp areas. My one shrub grows fuller and bigger around each year. The only drawback, and this we can hardly call a drawback, is that the flowers drop their petals all too soon. But that only means that we who so love these hardy plants must make sure to take time out and enjoy them while in season.
Maine has lots of wild plants that easily compete with their cultivated counterparts. In a future blog, I’ll give a description and photos of some of our native, flowering dogwood. Meanwhile, if they are still in bloom where you live, why not make it a point to get out and enjoy rhodora?