“Gardening” for my husband and me consists of identifying a struggling plant, chopping it back to a nub, and letting it have its “do or die” moment. We live in Oregon, where vegetation thrives, so this brute-force approach to plant care is usually successful.
Fortunately for us the original owner-builders of our 1968 house in Florence were adept at landscaping, choosing a variety of native flowering plants with varying bloom cycles and planting them in complementary groupings around the yard. The result is low maintenance, and yet we are rewarded each year with abundant spring color.
Taller than the first story of our two-story home, six or perhaps eight feet in diameter, the two camellia bushes in our yard unfold flat, hot pink, circular layers of petals every February. El Niño, La Niña, or somewhere in between, wet, dry, windy, no matter – their blooms consistently emerge heralding the lengthening hours of daylight.
Calla lilies along the house’s south edge push through the earth in early March, providing us bouquets of long stems topped with smooth white funnels at the end of the month. The white rhododendron near the garage joins in next, fully decked out by Easter. Soon after, pale pink blossoms cover the ornamental cherry tree near the front door until a breezy storm sends its delicate petals fluttering through the air to blanket the ground.
Around tax return time the golden chain tree dominating the southwest corner of the lawn spews cascades of yellow florets. As it peaks, a trio of rhodies around the front – one fire engine red, the other two differing hues of pink – start their display, followed soon after by an adjacent shrub coated in small white blossoms (viburnum, I think).
More blooms have joined the show by early May: pom-pom hydrangea sprout by the front door, four fuchsia bushes of two varieties draw hummingbirds, and a few hot pink rhodies plus a pale lavender with medallions decorate both the front and back of the house.
The final splash of color comes from the rhododendron next to the maple tree, bright lilac clusters opening near May Day and persisting through month’s end. Its appearance is always bitter-sweet: it’s my favorite flowering perennial in our yard, but its blooms signal the close of the year’s most vibrant season.
Did that whet your appetite for Oregon spring gardens? If you take the above image, multiply it by many acres, add in a diverse collection of flora, a cozy woods, and a gazebo, all connected by meandering sidewalks with ample seating options, then you are well on your way to describing Azalea Park in Brookings.
Azalea Park literature claims color throughout the year, but spring is certainly the best time for flowers. Our stop mid-April was a few weeks before prime bloom time, but amongst flourishing verdure were many bushes flashing a preview of what was yet to come. Azaleas and rhododendrons peak in May, so now is the optimal time to visit!
Azalea or rhododendron? When I was sorting through the photos from our visit to Azalea Park, I found myself wondering the difference. Height and leaf shape can be a factor, but I learned the key differentiator is the number of stamens. Strangely, in all the colorful lushness exhibited in our yard, it contains not one single azalea!
Between the two parking lots on the west side of Azalea Park is a manicured garden with azaleas aplenty (including five rare types), plus rhododendrons, calla lilies, and a multitude of other ornamental trees and shrubs. Frequent benches allow rest, relaxation, and admiration of the bountiful, verdant surroundings.
|Terrain:||Winding sidewalks, flat around the main garden, but inclining as you head toward the gazebo.|
|Seating:||Benches at various points along the path.|
|Fee: No fee|
|Restrooms:||Nearest is by the kids play area off the north parking lot. Another behind the amphitheater.|
|Directions:||From Highway 101 in Brookings, turn north on North Bank Chetco River Road, then take the first left on Old County Road. The first right reaches the south parking lot. The second right reaches the north parking lot. In both cases, path entrances are clearly visible.|