Last year, at Easter, my mother-in-law gave us a small potted azalea. This type of azalea, commonly called a florist azalea or greenhouse azalea, was bred from non-hardy species like Rhododendron simsii for cultivation in in cool greenhouses. They are commonly available in bloom from florists, garden centers and sometimes even supermarkets. Some varieties may be marginally hardy in the NC piedmont, especially during mild winters like this one, but they are not as well suited to our gardens as the Kurume and Satsuki hybrids, or even the Southern Indicas which were also derived from R. simsii and related species.
This plant had no tag, and since I have no idea how hardy it might be, I decided not to risk it in the ground. After it finished blooming, I put it outside in shade and kept the pot well watered through the summer. As the weather cooled off in autumn, I moved it into brighter light and, eventually full sun. I left it out until the first hard freeze was forecast, and when I brought it into the house, I put it close to a cool window. It has rewarded me with these bright, semi-double flowers on a dark, cold, rainy winter day.