21st November 2021
Camellia brevistyla .
Autumnal rain has dripped through the garden all week. It hasn't been an inspiring time. I wandered up through the trees on Friday just to prove to myself that nothing had changed.
There was a blanket of wet leaves on the ground with more falling. The paths were granular with worm casts. It felt as though nothing had changed in a week.
It isn't true, at this time of year things are changing almost as fast as they do in the spring though in a less explosive way. Callicarpa 'Profusion'
has shed its last leaves. The bare grey twigs now display their ridiculous clusters of mauve berries in full view. Yesterday the sun came out
and they sparkle. It is a teasing colour, it doesn't seem to be natural. It appears in the garden and I always have to go and see what it is, never remembering or perhaps never quite believing
that it can be the Callicarpa fruits. I'm not sure that I like it. Autumn fruits should be red and plump with spherical opulence. Callicarpa berries stand out in
their strangeness like a hi-vis Christmas cake. I may not really like them but I couldn't do without.
On Saturday the sun shone briefly and the aspect of the garden changed. Camellia brevistyla opened its first flowers. I grew a number from seed many years ago and they are finally
making it into the garden having spent a decade too long sitting around waiting. The flowers aren't spectacular but they come out early in the season and remind me of the sensationally warm
autumn day when I was given them.
21st November 2021
Camellia sasanqua 'Paradise Glow' .
Camellias do well in this garden, which is a surprise when I consider how badly I treat them. The problem is that camellias do well in this garden and so I tend to buy more of them.
Buying more camellias and having space to plant them are different things. Reconciling the two things tends to involve several years of suffering on the part of the plants.
As the garden filled up with camellias I became more and more interested in those that flowered early, offering the first glimpses of spring through the dreariness of the dark months.
The various cultivars of C. sasanqua caught my eye and I bought a handful of the "Paradise" series from Australia. Raised by Bob Cherry at Paradise Plants in New South Wales,
they promised to perform well in gardens throughout Australia. In the event, they have been doing well worldwide.
There is a conceptual gap between buying and planting. It took several years to get them into the ground and they have taken a long time to recover. In that time I have lost track of
the labels so it takes a bit of detective work through my records to identify them.
Fortunately 'Paradise Glow' is distinctive, the only large single flowered pink that I planted in the series. It went into the ground about a decade ago and after struggling with
a difficult situation, regular trimming by rabbits and occasional overgrowth by brambles, it has finally flowered for the first time this year. It's a good plant, I'm not such a good gardener.
21st November 2021
Camellia 'Show Girl' .
There are places that seem to be fundamental in organising geography. Decades ago I was having lunch with a friend when she expressed the view that Pratt's Covered Market in Hayle
was the centre of the universe. All roads lead there. It didn't seem to matter what she needed, the covered market was the place to go. It was as though somebody had banged a cosmic
stake through the fabric of the universe inside Pratt's Market and the whole of creation revolved around it. I'm not certain that it was true but I still drive past quite carefully, just in case.
Camellia 'Show Girl' performs a similar feat in the garden, its roots seem to be the stable anchor in a changing pattern. When I started laying out the garden here
I had a lot of naive ideas about what I could maintain. A lot of self-deception has been swept away over the years but 'Show Girl' has remained, a stable punctuation
in the changing pattern. The bearing on a spinning garden. It was the thing that started my exploration of the early flowering camellias. It is a hybrid between C. sasanqua
and C. reticulata, inheriting the early flowering of the former and the large blooms of the latter. I always hope for flowers by Christmas and it usually obliges.
A first flower in November has come as a surprise and although it is just one flower it marks a distinct change in the garden. The weather has been falling into line as well.
The sun has come out this morning, the forecast says the temperatures are about to plummet. I have enjoyed an unexpectedly warm autumn, all sorts of plants have performed
well. The Hedychium have been a delight. Eventually the heavy moisture that has pervaded the whole place has become tiresome. I am yearning for a bright sky
and some sharp light. 'Show Girl' is whispering a promise.
21st November 2021
Camellia 'Snow Flurry' .
Bright light will bring with it the risk of sharp frost and cold nights. I could do without those but hopefully it won't last for long. Down in the greenhouse
the earliest of the Australian Dendrobium hybrids are producing flower spikes. I need to make sure that I have some fleece to hand in case there is a sudden cold night.
The plants will survive without much damage but the new flower spikes will just fold up and die if they get frosted. Dendrobium plants have a fascinating structural appeal
but it isn't really enough to sustain interest if they don't flower.
Camellia 'Snow Flurry' reflects a similar experience with Camellias. It was raised by Dr William Ackerman in the USA in response to a series of cold winters which
seriously damaged C. japonica and C. sasanqua in the US National Arboretum. He raised a series of hybrids using established winter flowering cultivars
and crossing them with C. oleifera which showed outstanding hardiness. The result has been a range of white and pink flowered plants with single or
loose double flowers that tolerate extreme winter weather.
I am hoping that it isn't an attribute that is required here but I do appreciate flowers during the darkest days. I have a number of plants from Ackerman's breeding.
They were freed from overgrowth last spring
and have grown well through the summer. I am hoping they will continue to provide cheer for many weeks.
21st November 2021
Camellia 'Nobilissima' .
Autumn has been long and grey. There have been bright flashes from the Hedychium and last week one of the late Dahlia produced a flower.
Summer is long gone but the promise of spring still seems to be hidden. Colchicum and early snowdrops offer some crumbs of flowering comfort
but the heavy wet weather has been relentless.
The arrival of some sunshine might herald a change. It isn't entirely a good thing but it will be a relief. I went into the garden looking for
signs of movement and I found the first camellias. Autumn camellias are to be expected. 'Show Girl' arrived on stage early but wasn't outrageous.
'Snow Flurry' suggests a winter development that I could do without but together they represent a distinct change. Once I have Camellia flowers in the garden
they will continue, sporadically at first but they will continue. By the time they end in May or June I will be thoroughly sick of them.
For now they are delightful.
For all the bright attractions of autumn flowers, it was this half open bud of 'Nobilissima' that cheered me most. It is a stray bud, opening in a rush of feckless enthusiasm
as a result of a warm week, but it is a spring Camellia. Like the swelling of the catkins in January it is a clear sign of the new year on its way.