Dogwoods and Azaleas  


Growing up in Memphis I always appreciated the beauty of the Spring when the Dogwood Trees and the Azaleas bloomed.  Indeed, both plants thrived on the Tech front campus.  After moving to Southern California in 1954, I missed the arrival of Spring when these plants bloomed.  Azaleas grew in California but they were quite small and unimpressive.  Dogwoods didn't grow here. 

After graduation from Tech, I had always kept in touch with George Piaggio (Tech Art Teacher).  Some of you might remember that he lived on a flower farm which was "way out in Raleigh".  On the farm I knew he grew Dogwoods and Azaleas.  In 1957 when my mother and Dad were flying out to California to visit, I asked Mr. Piaggio if he could send a Dogwood cutting.   He sent 4 small plants with roots and I managed to get one to grow in a pot on my patio.  It thrived for over a year and then suddenly died.  Keeping it alive had become my crusade, but my guess is that it doesn't get cold enough during our winters.  I never tried to grow another one but I never forgot my feelings for the Dogwoods around Memphis. 

Fast forward to 2000.  Since moving to California, I had been "lost" to my Tech Class of 1951.  They found me in 2000 and invited me to our 50th Reunion in 2001.  At first I wasn't going but then I decided to make the trip.  That turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.  I had such a great time visiting my old friends from long ago, that I decided to return again in April the next year. 

During the 2002 visit, on the way from the airport to the motel in Germantown, I kept seeing these beautiful blooming trees and huge red-hued blooming shrubs.  They were spectacular!  Suddenly it hit me!  These were the plants I missed from my childhood, and they were in full bloom.  

I took many excursions during this visit, to simply drive around Memphis and admire the landscaping.  And there is no city in the world as beautiful as Memphis in the Spring when the Dogwoods and Azaleas are in bloom. 

Since that original 2001 visit, I have returned to Memphis every April - and plan to return again this April (2010).

- Gene Gill