Starting with ume (Japanese plum) in February, Mother Nature starts unrolling a carpet of texture and color that Japan follows madly along until collapsing with exhaustion in the heat and humidity of summer. Ume are followed by the beloved sakura, and then the scene rapidly becomes more crowded with blooms of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Roses, wisteria, and hydrangea are but a few, but at this moment it is the native azalea that holds center stage with its bright pink or white flowers. Usually arrayed along streets and sidewalks here in Tokyo they migrated down from the mountainsides over the centuries to participate in festivals and weave themselves into a series of complex traditions. Trimmed up boxy they make a fantastic hedge that remains green throughout the year as well as a nice little hideout for urban wildlife.