Azaleas, Irises, Etc.

Prior to the time we built our home in Buras back in 1985, I never did much testing to see how green my thumbs might be. However, the fairly large, bare yard just begged for something to be planted in it, and I quickly learned a lot about where and where not to plant camellias and roses.

I also learned that rose-upkeep detracted from my fishing time, and that a camellia had to be pretty tough to keep me from killing it! On the other hand, I could grow azaleas and irises with little effort, and they were quite pleasing in season.

When we were displaced to Acadiana, we found a cozy little ranch-style home on a one-acre lot – that acre having been left virtually W-A O by the previous owners. So I planted another hundred azaleas and almost that many irises, and they prospered.

So, the point of all this is that I will try to post some pics of it all for your enjoyment. Please don’t get distracted, though – this IS a fly-fishing site!



DSCN0447Some time ago Barbara planted this hyacinth, and for several years it was dormant. Then we added two miniature hibiscus to the planter, and the hyacinth decided to make an appearance! Now it gives us some lovely color during the dead of winter.



Our azaleas began blooming in early February, and while they never did hit a real peak, we had nice color for a while. These are the last.




Dead Camellias

As I mentioned at the top of this page, prior to the time Barbara and I moved into our new home in south Buras I had never tried to grow anything and hadn’t missed it a bit. Then I was faced with a front yard that was completely featureless – either very low maintenance or very high potential, depending on your attitude and whether or not your thumbs are green.

Through a definite lack of inexperience, I assumed that mine weren’t, but I did see the promise there for some seasonal color. So I soon lined the partially shaded driveway with azaleas and built two large rose-beds in the yard’s open and sun-drenched area. However, one bed soon became shaded by the trees in an adjoining lot, and since roses don’t especially care for shade, those bushes eventually died. So I tore up that bed and planted a couple of camellias there, and a few years later a new neighbor cut down the trees. And that was the end of the shade-loving camellias in that spot!

On the other hand, those that I had planted along the walkway from the drive to the side porch were in shade for much of the day, though I must confess that was not a consideration when I planted them. Still, with care for them which had to have been a result of a few genes passed along by a camellia-loving grandfather, I watered and fed them faithfully.

At this point, I must declare that my paternal grandfather was a veritable magician with camellias. He had a pretty large, and in part deeply shaded, yard and had planted a virtual grove of them throughout it by the time I was old enough to take a stroll with him through them. And I must again declare that was usually done with him dressed in a wool or tweed sport coat, fedora, and a cane and while he was smoking an El Trelles cigar that had been planted firmly into a carved walrus-tusk holder. He almost always seemed to be attired rather formally, if only for a winter’s walk through his backyard camellias.

Anyway, he was also quite talented with grafting twigs from one bush onto another, and I recall someone telling me that there were something like a thousand variations of flowers on his 500-odd bushes! Something like that, anyway. But the most marvelous thing about his camellia garden was that while he was strolling through it, he would occasionally pick a promising seed from a bush, then after deciding where a good spot for it might be, just drop it, and then shove it into the ground with the tip of his cane!

And from that point it would grow into a lovely bush! And without much if any further attention! Well, except from above.

Whatever, within a year of their planting one of my aforementioned “walkway” camellias had died and two others had shrunk to exactly four leaves apiece before they gained a toe-hold in spite of me and soon began to prosper – sort of.

Poor camellias. Tree limbs broken by hurricane winds fell on them and removed years of growth from them. The outside cats regularly used them as potties despite my efforts to stop them. Barbara’s dog dug up one that I had planted in the backyard – camellias don’t take well to re-planting after being dug up by a dog! And they tend to grow so slowly, even if by some quirk of fate they remained healthy and reasonably whole in my care.

Eventually – and without any basis whatsoever – I went azalea-crazy, and within a couple of years there were well over 100 of them in my front and back yards. And almost all of them did quite nicely. Then, for an accent of sorts, I planted a camellia on each side of the front walkway just before it met the porch.

Both of them – each being of the same variety – were bought from the same place on the same day for the same price. Both were planted at the same time on the same day. Both were cared for in the same manner. And after about three years one had become the picture of perfect health while the other was on the verge of leaving for the great camellia garden in the sky!

After being displaced to Acadiana by K., I loaded up our new yard with 100 or so azaleas – almost all of which have thrived, and two camellias. One of those has grown nicely for three years, yet has produced only two blossoms! The other – a “Purple Dawn” and one of my two favorites – graced the back yard two winters ago with a load of blossoms. That, incidentally, was well after I had forgotten I had planted it there. So I began caring for it. Last winter it struggled to produce two blossoms – now it’s as dead as a hammer’s handle.

Stuff like that really messes with my mind, especially knowing how well they can brighten up a dreary winter day! An uncle who is almost as camellia-savvy as my grandfather has developed a new strain which he named after his late wife. It’s registered in the camellia annals – “Joan Holden” – and it makes a pretty flower. He has told me on several occasions that he would be happy to graft a plant for me. I really would like that, as he and aunt Joan were favorite people while I was growing up, but I’m afraid that my fear for its life would override the pleasure I would derive from it.

Sure wish I had a couple more of my granddaddy’s camellia-friendly genes in me…



            This is a hibiscus and one of the most strangely configurated I have ever come across. I don’t recall its name – “Texas Star” or something like that, and during the past four years it has sprouted only a single stalk each spring.

But it sure is pretty!






            One thing you must be aware of when you buy a new home and plant a bunch of weeds is what you planted and where you planted them. Apparently I planted a gardenia bush at a corner of the carport, then planted a Confederate jasmine beside it next to a trellis-type upright support for the carport’s roof. Guess which one grew the fastest!

Fact is, I trimmed the jasmine a bit last spring and never noticed anything untowards. So imagine my surprise when a week ago I detected several gardenia blossoms – and a LOT more buds – poking their ways outwards through the vines. Neat stuff!

So I trimmed the vines around them a bit, and now we have a very sweet-smelling and rather pretty double dip from whence only one had been present for several years.

It’s amazing how much good you can do to a plant by doing nothing at all!



Me and God did good, huh?



Tidewater Spider Lilies (Wild!)

Prior to K., during April the irises and spider lilies would bloom between the Tidewater Road and Red Pass below Venice. One day I dug up a few and transplanted them into my backyard. Nothing much resulted, then here came K. with its saltwater flooding that left most of the plant life down there looking quite dead.

On our second or third rescue trip the following winter, I noticed some green sprouts poking through the goop in what was once a lily/iris bed, dug up a few of them, and then transplanted them in a small bed I made alongside the driveway of our new home in Acadiana. Thinking they were probably “tame” irises or lilies, imagine my surprise when the first bloom appeared – a genuine wild Tidewater Road spider lily.

Since then I have grown more of them from seeds from the original plant, and now I have spider lilies scattered around the yard – fond reminders of the Delta’s good things. And yes, I am quite partial to them

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