Thursday, April 5, 2012

Azalea Gardens

Azaleas are a staple of Southern gardens, so it is not surprising
 that one sees azaleas everywhere in the Shire this time of year.

But the azalea is not purely Southern; it is an ancient plant
that has adorned the hillsides of Asia for centuries.
Chinese poets of the Ming and Tang dynasties wrote of its beauty.
Japanese gardeners have long relied on the azalea's bright flowers
as a counterpoint to what is called ma, the interval of empty space.
 In this part of Virginia there is a decades-old tradition of celebrating the azalea
with a festival every spring.
Azaleas are striking flowerering shrubs that start
with glorious colors that gently, and some say sadly, fade away.

But for now, here are some of the lovely, colorful azaleas blooming
in Southeastern Virginia gardens  this week: 


Some sources say azaleas symbolize fragility and womanhood.
Others say they symbolize admonishments to take care of oneself
while going on with life.
This stanza from a bittersweet poem by Korean poet Kim So-Wol
called Chindallae-kkot 'Azaleas'  
 is about a man saying good-bye to the woman he loves.  
The verse expresses some of the azalea's symbolism:

climbing high on Yongpyon's hills,
 there I'll pick azalea flowers,
 armfuls of purple, just to spread
 along the pathways as you go.

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