Strolling a garden on a rainy afternoon

In coastal Alabama summer rain can fall in torrents, but most commonly it gushes for fifteen minutes or an hour, and not throughout the day. On this Sunday the rain began early and ended late, though periods of gentle rain in the afternoon allowed me to stroll through the lush plantings at the Mobile Botanic Garden.

The garden has no elaborate floral displays, but paved paths meander through common landscape plants of the southeast. In a few weeks I’ll revisit one of my favorite botanic gardens at the University of Georgia, but on this rainy afternoon a smaller garden was just what I needed to get out of the hotel room for a few hours. I was thoroughly soaked after a few minutes, but I managed a few photos before the deluge resumed.

The Garden’s azalea collection includes Southern Indica varieties, but also Robin Hill, Kurume, and Encore azaleas that are found in many mid-Atlantic gardens. In July there is no reason to expect to see blooming azaleas, but the Encores displayed a few scattered flowers (above), and ferns and camellias glistened in the dampness.

Little was blooming in the Herb and Fragrance garden, but strongly scented Ginger lilies (Hedychium, above) reminded me of my disappointment that I have failed to establish these in my garden. A few cultivars are marginally cold hardy, but none has survived in my cold natured garden. Of course, now the delightful fragrance has motivated me to try again, though spring planting is more appropriate for marginally hardy plants so that their roots are established before going into winter.

I am quite certain that the agapanthus (below) that greeted me at the entrance to the Rhododendron garden is not the cold hardy sort, and though the hardiest are quite marginal for northwest Virginia’s cold, the blooms are so lovely that I’m encouraged to give them a try.

I have not been successful with gardenias in my garden, though some recent introductions claim to be sufficiently cold hardy. The variegated gardenia (below) at the Botanic Garden was not blooming, and it is most definitely not cold hardy, but its foliage is wonderful, and ornamental even when the fragrant blooms are not present.

About this time the skies opened up with showers familiar to Mobile natives, and I ran for cover, only to be stopped momentarily by a lone magnolia bloom. One last photo (below), and then I dashed to the shelter of my rental vehicle.

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