08 January 2012

Fading Beauties

Camellia, Moncks Corner, S.C.
Camellias are a winter gift to the south. We are so used to living in a colorful garden that they keep us from suffering too much in the winter. These are white camellias that took a chill with the cold last week. Now it's warm again and the puddle of petals on the ground is as beautiful as the blossom. 

Here is a fun essay on Camellia names.

If the Bloom Is Off the Rose for You
Camellias, native to Asia, have become fixtures in the West ever since their introduction in the 1700s. Their leaves are dried to make traditional green or black tea, and many gardeners plant them for their showy winter blooms, which have a wide range of colors. Camellias thrive in temperate regions, but there are now also cold-hardy varieties that have expanded the growing range as far north as Canada.

There are countless species in the genus camellia, but these three species (or hybrids of them) are the most common:
JAPONICA The most common ornamental species, it has large showy blooms, like a cabbage rose or a peony. The flowers fall off like a wilted pompon when spent, rather than shedding their petals one at a time.
SASANQUA Another ornamental, but its blooms look more like an antique rose with fewer petals than C. japonica and a prominent yellow stamen. The petals fall to the ground singly.   SINENSIS Also known as the tea plant, this species is the source of traditional black, green, oolong and white teas. It is squat and has small, fragrant white flowers.