Springtime is for Azaleas in the Carolinas
Updated: Feb 21, 2020
March and April are the prime time to travel to see the hundreds of azalea varieties bloom throughout the scenic south. Different varieties bloom at different times during the spring so there is something different to check out every week. Here I highlight two of the best locations to visit and photograph them. One each in North and South Carolina.
Where to see the show
In Raleigh, where I live, just driving down many neighborhood streets will treat you to a beautiful display of these colorful bushes. Wilmington, North Carolina, which is near the coast has an Azalea Festival every April. A number of South Carolina plantations also have great "show" gardens with many varieties in bloom. One of my favorite North Carolina azalea locations is right here in Raleigh, on the property of the WRAL TV station. In South Carolina, Brookgreen Gardens, south of Myrtle Beach, has got to be near the top of your travel list to see azaleas.
Raleigh, North Carolina - WRAL Azalea Gardens
These gardens were a pet project of the station owner. There is a huge variety of Azaleas and flowers in bloom, along with some flowering trees as well. It is free to the public and ample parking is provided.
Early morning can be a good time to visit for photography. You want a softer light and not too many visitors. Overcast days are good too. The late afternoon, weekends or early evening can get a bit more crowded. This is a favorite with local photographers for family pictures.
Photo Advice: If you are taking pictures, this is a good time to get in close and try some narrow depth of focus. Try a variety of apertures, as "wide open" many not always be the ideal setting. I have shot both with and without a tripod in these situations. Unless there is a bit of a breeze, so freezing the action is needed, I generally find using a tripod gives me the best control and results.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina - Brookgreen Gardens
These gardens at Brookgreen are a National Historic Landmark and on the site of an old plantation. It features hundreds of sculptures, a low country zoo, and enormous gardens spread out over 1000's of acres. There is an admission charge here, but the photo opportunities abound and your admission allows you to come back all week, so it is well worth the trip to see this scenic gem.
The large live oak, with their hanging moss, make for an excellent backdrop for the flowers and many avalea varieties. We came back here twice in the same week. For taking pictures, weekends, during the spring, can get a little busy. Get there when they first open, for the morning light. Overcast days are good too. There is a variety of gardens with different "themes". Some are quite formal, with archways and long walkways. Tryout your telephoto skills to compress the perspective on some of the garden paths.
If you have a favorite azalea spot, drop me a line and let me know where it is.