Southern Spring Flowers and Trees
Spring Arrived Early
There was almost no winter in northern Florida March, but then is seemed like Spring happened overnight and now we have roses in bloom..The Red Bud trees were blooming in by the end of March. We have enjoyed the Azaleas and Dogwood trees for the past few weeks as well.
It was necessary for us to pick about 100 grapefruits off of our tree, as the tree was already starting to bloom for this season. The orange tree is also starting to bloom. There are numerous birds flocking to our bird feeder and bird bath. Yesterday morning I decided to put out the hummingbird feeder, even though it is early in the season. In the late afternoon I saw one of those precious little birds feeding.
Spring is such a beautiful time of the year but when it comes this early it makes you wonder if you are not going to have a scorching hot summer. Gardens must be planted early in this areas because the sun and heat will dry them up by July.
Queen of the Garden
I started taking pictures of some of the beautiful flowered shrubs and trees a few weeks ago. Azaleas are very popular in this area and often half the houses on any given street will have this beautiful shrub in their yard. They grow in many beautiful colors. They can grow to 6’ high and many are very large.
Azaleas were originally considered to be a type of rhododendron, which looks very similar. They now have an individual genus and are a member of the Ericacaea family. This is an ancient group which dates back to 70 million years ago. They were originally cultivated by monks in Buddhist monasteries. Nepal’s national flower is the azalea. There are two types of azalea, the evergreen azalea and the deciduous variety, but literally thousands of varieties. They are know as “Queen of the Garden”.
Spring FlowersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Azalea Information and History
So many people love azaleas that there have been over 10,000 different cultivars which have been propagated by cuttings. Seeds may also be collected and germinated also. The first azaleas were planted in Charleston in 1848. There are numerous azalea festivals in the south and in many places throughout the world. Alabama has the Azalea Trail, which is a path that runs through private gardens in Mobile and there is an annual race in late March. Alabama is also home to the Azalea Trail Maids, which is fifty women wearing antebellum dresses that act as ambassadors of the city.
Azaleas take very little work but they do the best is slightly acidic soil which drains well. They can only be trimmed right after they are through blooming. If trimming is done later in the year the plant will not bloom on those cut branches the following spring. They don’t require very much fertilizer either.
The Legend of the Dogwood
“When Christ was on earth, the dogwood grew
To a towering size with a lovely hue.
Its branches were strong and interwoven,
And for Christ's cross its timbers were chosen.
“Being distressed at the use of the wood,
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
'Never again shall the dogwood grow
To be large enough for a tree, and so,
Slender and twisted it shall always be,
With cross-shaped blossoms for all to see.
“'The petals shall have bloodstains marked brown,
And in the blossom's center a thorny crown.
All who see it will think of me,
Nailed to a cross from a dogwood tree.
Protected and cherished this tree shall be,
A reflection to all of my agony.'”
The popular Dogwoods are among the prettiest trees and often used in landscaping. There are also numerous Dogwood Festivals.
Dogwood trees are part of the genus Cornus group containing about 30-60 different species. They are found around the world. Originally, in England they were called “dog-tree” in 1548, but the name was changed to dogwood in 1614. They have also been called other names through the centuries. In Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” he referred to them as whipple-tree. The whipple tree was used to provide traction in a horse-drawn cart as it linked the harnesses to the drawpole of the cart.
Dogwoods were planted for their dense, fine-grained wood which was used to make loom shuttles, tool handles and some of the first laminated tennis rackets utilized this wood. Pioneers used the twigs, peeling off the bark, to brush their teeth. Thomas Jefferson grew many of these trees at his home, Monticello, in Virginia.
There are many legends associated with the dogwood tree. The Christian legend states that the dogwood grew tall and strong, like an Oak, when Jesus walked the earth and that this wood was used for his crucifixion.
The Cherokee Indians also have a legend.They believe that a small race of people, called the Dogwood People, lived in the forest and watched over the trees, teaching them to live in harmony. It is said they believed in doing good deeds for others just because they were kind. Native Americans used the blooms of the Dogwood as a sign that it was time to plant their corn.
Flowering TreesClick thumbnail to view full-size
The popularity of the Dogwood tree has grown through the years. They thrive best in a woodland type of habitat, with some afternoon shade. They need soil that drains well. They are a small tree, growing about 30’ tall and 35’ across. The branches are layered in tiers and their blooms only last for about 2- 3 weeks. The blooms are usually a beautiful showy white or pink. There are many different varieties, one with variegated yellow leaves.We were able to purchase a dogwood tree at a city tree sale for a very reasonable price.
They have been hurt by a dogwood blight which is a fungus disease. Trees out in the open with good air circulation are affected less often, but the disease will eventually kill the tree if left untreated. There are several other diseases that can also affect the tree, so it is important to check the tree periodically to maintain its health. They should also be fertilized occasionally.
White Flowering Dogwood Trees
Amaryllis is a spring flower that is a nice border plant which grows from a bulb. They are quite common in this area and take absolutely no care once the bulb is planted,
The genus name is "amarysso", which is a Greek word that means to sparkle. In Greek mythology it refers to a shepherdess who shed her blood to prove her love, hence the color of the flower. It is thought the Portuguese brought the flower to Europe in the early 16th century. Amaryllis means "St. Joseph's Staff" to the Portuguese. There are other legends from other countries as well.
Spring Flower - AmaryllisClick thumbnail to view full-size
As I mentioned earlier, or citrus trees are blooming while the grapefruit tree still had a large amount of unpicked fruit from its grand bounty this year. The photos I took show the flower unopened, then opened. If you look carefully as the base of the center of the flower you will see a small round green area which is actually the new fruit beginning to grow.
Citrus Tree BloomsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Do you have any azaleas or dogwood trees in your yard?See results without voting
I hope you have enjoyed spring in northern Florida. Spring flowers always make me feel like life now has a new beginning. The weather is pleasant and the flowers are lovely. I even have a few buds on my roses. I sure need to be outside gardening.
The copyright to this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
© 2012 Pamela Oglesby
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