( I checked; last year, the first, a brilliant red rhodo, opened the 4th of May. In 2008 and '07, the same plants flowered towards the end of May. This year, it was in full flower last Saturday, the 1st. Four years doesn't count as a trend, but it is suggestive; each year the flowers are a bit earlier.)
Laurie was going out to photograph them. I grabbed my camera and went along.
The first bush, out where the sun shines. Too red, too glossy, too vibrant for a decent photo. So shiny it turns out white.
Lemon yellow, in the shade.
Another red. I love the golden anthers. (Click and look at it full size.)
I don't have the knack for rhodo photographs; they're too overpowering; I can't get a handle on their individuality. I stuck with a couple of bushes, still budding, and went looking for bugs.
Rhododendrons are sticky. The buds and twigs are always coated with a heavy glue. When I go around deadheading, or pruning out double buds, my hands end up coated with a black tar that takes forever to scrub off. No sense using gloves; I'd never get them clean, so they'd have to be disposable.
The glue is too much for the insects, too. I found many, some dead, some alive; all stuck onto the sepals enclosing the buds.
I think this is one of our parasitoid wasps.
Two syrphid flies. And at the lower right, silhouetted against a spot of blue sky, a mosquito or small wasp that has managed to get stuck head-on.
A cute little spider. There were many of these. They fared as badly on the glue as the flies and wasps did.
"So that's what a fly in our webs feels like!"
These two spiders were still alive. I tried to unstick them, using my smallest paintbrush. Impossible. They struggled, trying to pull their legs free, getting more stuck with each move. I finally used a bit of water, and a larger brush. I got them off, but their legs stayed behind, and I had to put them out of their misery.
The petals are safe. No glue here.
One of those two flies. One wing gone, half of the legs.
Fly eye. Looking mournful.
I am wondering about the function of that glue. It certainly keeps the bugs under control, but the ones it traps, flies, spiders, wasps, don't harm the flower. There were no ants on the gluey parts. Either they know better, or they have non-stick feet.