UNITED STATES—Bloom is bountiful for spring. It is more abundant now than it will be at any other time of year. Early bloom has more time to produce more seed prior to autumn and winter. Also, it can most efficiently exploit its pollinators who are also most active in spring. The most prominent blooms appeal to such pollinators with floral color. Their effort is remarkable.

Most bloom within most natural ecosystems here relies on wind for pollination. Although very efficient, it lacks prominence. Some grasses seem to produce seed without evident bloom. Because such vegetation does not rely on pollinators, it has no need to advertise. Toyon produces tiny but prominently copious flowers for both wind and insect pollination.

Most species within home gardens rely on pollinators rather than wind for pollination. At least their ancestors did. They originally developed both floral color and floral fragrance to attract pollinators. Extensive breeding enhanced color and fragrance, but also caused sterility for some. Others are not true to type. Their visual appeal became less practical.

Floral color was originally more practical than merely pretty.

Obviously, such visual appeal and associated practicality are subjective. Although less practical for procreation, enhanced bloom is more practical for home gardens. Most who enjoy flowers appreciate enhanced floral color and enhanced floral fragrance. They are unconcerned with how species that provide such bloom procreate. Looks are everything.

Besides, some pollinators can still enjoy most enhanced floral color. A few flowers are so genetically modified that they confuse some pollinators. A few insects die of exhaustion while trying to gain entry. Generally though, most get what they came for or safely leave without it. Many who enjoy gardening also enjoy pollinating insects and hummingbirds.

Ultimately, floral color is personal. Many garden enthusiasts prefer specific color ranges or specific colors. Many prefer an abundance of color. Some prefer more subdued floral color. Some prefer specific types of flowers to provide floral color. Bloom season may be another concern. Some want more winter bloom while nearby gardens lack floral color. Many prefer major spring bloom. Some like random bloom through the year.

Highlight: Azalea

Azaleas, which are species of Rhododendron, have been in cultivation for centuries. At least ten thousand cultivars are documentable. Most are interspecific hybrids. Only a few are selections or breeds of simple species. Most of their ancestral species are native to Asia, Europe or North America. Almost all cultivars that are available here are evergreen.

Azaleas can bloom profusely enough during April or May to almost obscure their foliage. Bloom may last for more than two weeks. Floral color ranges between white and red with many tints of pink, salmon and magenta. The most profuse flowers are as narrow as half an inch. Larger flowers may be three inches wide. Rare deciduous azaleas are fragrant.

Azaleas do not grow fast, but can eventually sprawl more than five feet wide. Some can grow nearly twice as wide. Although most do not grow much taller than three feet, some can grow twice as tall. Azaleas are naturally understory species, so can tolerate a bit of partial shade. They should not crave fertilizer. If they do, they prefer acidifying fertilizer.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.