Springtime is always a wonderful time to visit your local botanical garden, park, or arboretum. While there may be an unending succession of blooming flowers in the spring, it is almost a ritual in some areas to visit the gardens when the azaleas are blooming. Possibly the most renowned azalea gardens are found on the plantations surrounding Charleston, South Carolina. After enjoying the azalea spectacle at Middleton Plantation, Magnolia Plantation, and Cypress Gardens, many of the crowds proceed to Summerville, a town just outside of Charleston, where my parents lived. For one or two weeks each year, this small town swells in size as thousands of people come from all over the United States to see the azaleas that grace the old houses and gardens of "Flower Town."
Today azaleas figure prominently in the landscapes of gardens throughout the United States. A walkway in the Arboretum at the University of Washington in Seattle meanders through a breathtaking collection of red, pink, and white azaleas. Our National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., has a glorious hillside covered by azaleas. While the relentless heat of central and south Florida's long hot summers precludes the inclusion of azaleas in most people's yards, they are still a crowd-pleaser in many of Florida's public gardens. Bok Tower, Cypress Gardens, and Maclay Gardens are just some of Florida's gardens which have imposing plantings of azaleas.