In mid to late March, when the azalea is totally covered with blossoms, it receives a lot of attention from passersby. Sandra, who moved out of the neighborhood last spring, reported that she had used it as a backdrop for photographing her grandchildren.
This year, a woman stopped while walking her dog and asked me how I managed to make the azalea bloom so prolifically. Essentially I told her the pruning story I had related in the 2011 link above. She shook her head and walked on with her impatient dog, who may have been eager to get away from my dogbane.
Now the azalea is past its prime for sure, and the ground under it is littered with limp petals, contributing to the dismal array of freesias breathing their last. Fortunately the freesias still smell wonderful, but I'll start deadheading them soon. It will be a relief to cover the whole area with a fresh layer of mulch.
It will take a long time to deadhead the azalea. I've been allowing myself about 15 minutes a day for this ritual, but may be able to squander an hour on it some day next week. Occasionally I'll take off a twig or two, but the real pruning must wait till the deadheading is done so that the shrub isn't wasting energy on seedpods.
Passersby with their dogs and children may think I'm working hard -- unless they've read Andrew Marvel's The Garden and guess that I've chosen this time "to weave the garlands of repose."