Dateline: Washington DC, Spring
It can truly be a sickening sight: in front of every house, all over the city and throughout the suburbs, you see the same thing: big blobs of garish azaleas, the colors usually clashing wildly with brick facades.
So, what a pleasure it was to come across this house in my own neighborhood, where yes, there are azaleas, but wow -- these have been artfully pruned by someone who really knows what they're doing. Click on the image for a larger view, and you'll see a great example of what's called cloud pruning.
This is an oriental type of pruning that accentuates the plant's branching structure and gives the foliage (or in this case the flower clusters) the appearance of little clouds. It's usually done on evergreens, such as boxwoods, pines, and yews, but it clearly can be done on azaleas as well. This is only the second time I've ever seen azaleas that had been cloud-pruned, and it surely makes them a standout in the landscape. They're a lot more interesting than those ugly globes of neon color that scar the landscape in spring and are truly dull for the rest of the year.