Trees and other plants start loosing their leaves in Autumn, getting ready for wintertime. Here in Brazil there are hardly any bright coloured leaves such as you see in Northern countries during that season of the year.
When Winter months arrive, in particular July and August, some plants do bloom, generally with smaller flowers such as Lenten trees and bougainvillea. However, the splendid prevalence comes from azaleas.
São Paulo is known as “City of Azaleas”, as they decorate most gardens and parks of this metropolis. The flowers may vary from dark red to complete white, with many different nuances and have single or double petals. My favourite colour is a ham-coloured pink. The scientific name is Rhododendron indicum, and the plant belongs to the Ericaceae family. Originally, the shrub came from China. The are many specimens in Tibet and Nepal too.
During the remaining months, azaleas are insignificant shrubs and are useful as hedges. Gardeners can trim them when not in flower. The truth is that they only come to attention when in bloom, more intense in mid-August. A few years ago I photographed azaleas through the gates of a residence not far from home (see above). Whoever planted them was very successful in mixing colours.
In the Northern hemisphere, there are other plants of the same family known as rododendrons. Originally also from China, they are tall shrubs and the flowers are bunched together in clusters differently from azaleas. They are of many different colours, predominating reds and whites, though you have yellows, oranges and blues. Of course, azaleas can be found as well.
The rhodondendron family contains a toxin called graianotoxin, present in pollen and nectar. Due to this, honey produced from these plants is poisonous. The rest of the plant is poisonous also, especially the leaves.
When in the U.K., we visited Inverewe Garden, a large area of exotic plants in the Northwest of Scotland, on a very barren countryside. The place was transformed into fertile land by Sir Osgood Mackenzie at the end of the 19th. century. They have many rododendrons of different shapes and colours there. The scenery is beautiful. Even in towns and cities throughout the British Isles, these plants are favourites in ornamenting gardens.
São Paulo is blessed by azaleas. Everyone appreciates them and admires their courageous proliferation during the colder months of the year. It is Nature’s gift to forget Winter’s hardships.