Established on the sunny side of Mt. Gibraltar in 2001 by Craig and Julie Hulbert, Perennial Hill has been described as ‘a jewel in the making’ and also contains many rare botanical treasures. Craig has had his own landscaping business for many years, while Julie has extensive horticultural experience, having worked in a number of nurseries. Her passion is perennials, while Craig’s love is rockery plants and conifers and together, they have been able to indulge those interests in a series of rooms with different themes and styles. Even though it is only 1 acre and still a relatively new garden, it feels much larger and older. It is amazing that when they first built their house, it was a completely bare paddock with a few eucalypts on the lower bottom corner and a small grouping at the top of the block. The garden is situated on a steep exposed slope and has good volcanic soil and good drainage. From the road and entry, only the conifer area and rockery garden is visible, but there is so much more, hidden behind high Leyland Cypress hedges. On one side of the house is a walled garden and rose avenue and on the other side, a potting shed and propagating area. The area behind the house is more level and is cooler, wetter and shadier than the front, allowing a totally different set of plants to flourish. There is a French parterre, topiared shapes and poplar hurdles and dry stone walls, as well as a sunken garden with a dwarf Mondo grass floor, and double mixed perennial and shrub borders. Perennials include: Pulmonarias; Campanulas; Salvias; Geums; Penstemons; Filipendulas; Monardas; Lysimachias; Francas; Helianthus and Rudbeckias. Other plants include: Ranunculus; Leucadendrons; and Echiums with Digitalis. I loved all the different combinations with a strong emphasis on colour and texture, as well as light and shade. I also like all the garden accessories from birdcages to pots and statues.Craig and Julie have a large collection of Sambucus and Cornus, including the rare Cornus alternifolia argentea. They also have some very rare trees including: Dacrydium cupressinum (New Zealand Rimu) , Cunninghamiana lanceolata (China Fir); Cedrus atlantica glauca pendula (Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar); Abies lasiocarpa compacta (Dwarf Arizona Fir); Cedrela sinensis (Chinese Cedar); Pseudolarix amabilis (Japanese Larch) and Fagas sylvatica pendula (Weeping Beech).Julie runs a number of propagating workshops, as well as workshops with titles like: Gardening in a Cool Climate; Creating a Summer Border; and An Introduction to Perennials, which covers the main family groups; use of perennials in the garden; soil preparation prior to planting; ongoing maintenance and pests and diseases. They have a market stall, as well as selling plants and gift ware in their garden shop in the house. They are also opened the garden for the inaugural Rare Plants Market Day on the last weekend of November. I look forward to seeing the development of this garden over the next few years. Julie and Craig are a lovely couple and very generous with their knowledge and time. They are constantly looking at new ideas to incorporate in their garden. Their new herbaceous perennial garden was inspired by Alan Bloom’s garden at Bressington, Norfolk, one of the 42 gardens they visited during a recent 5 week trip overseas. If you would like to see more photos, Australian Country Magazine wrote an article on this beautiful garden in their November issue.
23 Webb St Mittagong 1.25 acres
Ph (02) 4872 3003; 0412 507547; 0411 783883
Late September to the end of November 10 am to 4.30 pm $7 per adult
Not far away from Perennial Hill is another plant collector’s garden, established by Chris Styles and Dominic Wong in 1999 and specializing in peonies! They grow over 100 varieties of peonies from Chinese and Japanese Tree Peonies, which flower from mid-September to mid-October; European and American Tree Peonies, which bloom from mid-October to early November and Herbaceous Peonies, which finish the peony season from early to late November. The peony nursery is close to the house, the umbrellas shading the blooms from the intense sun. This pink peony is Hanabi from Japan.We visited this lovely garden last Autumn, but while we were in the area this weekend, we popped in for a quick sniff of the peonies, which were in full Spring bloom. Not all peonies are scented, so I was keen to smell them before making any decisions on peony selection, as tree peonies are quite expensive. They certainly have an unusual scent and I was really pleased that I made the effort to check and could now open the whole ballpark as far as peony choice was concerned. I loved the white ones and coral ones, but the deep reds were also very attractive! The first photo below is the Japanese Mekoho, while the second photo is Pink Hawaiian Coral.Peonies are the National flower of China and part of Dominic’s heritage, as his mother was Chinese. Apparently, during the early Chinese Dynasties, only the Emperor could grow peonies, so during the Cultural Revolution, Mao Tse Tung ordered the destruction of all peonies, because of their association with the royal family. Fortunately, they were also grown in monastery gardens and monks were able to preserve them, because their roots were used as medicine to purify the blood and treat female problems. The first photo below is Kronos from America. I’m not sure of the identity of the second peony.Dominic honed his horticultural skills on a 500 square metre block (plus the adjoining nature strip!) in Sydney, growing drought-tolerant plants around his Californian bungalow, but was keen for a larger garden and in 1999, bought a vacant block with Chris on sloping land with a creek at the bottom. They built a classic storybook cottage, which they run as a Bed-and-Breakfast with two guestrooms and a choice of an English or Chinese Yum-Cha breakfast. They designed the garden to be seen from the dining room windows, as the Winters are so cold. Here is their map of the overall design:I loved the long formal herbaceous perennial borders, which provide a constant colour from Spring to late Autumn and display great variation in colour, texture and leaf shape. Perennials include: Penstemons, Salvias, Centauras, Euphorbias, Alstroemerias, Phlomis, Oriental Iris, Verbascums, Cannas, Verbenas, Stachys, Scented Geraniums, Abutilon and Tree Lupins. There are also larger perennials like Melianthus, Romneya, Tree Dahlias, Stipagigantea and Foxtail Lilies. There is also a potager, hedged with Hidcote lavenders, and full of vegetables and herbs; a chook boudoir; formal lawns, a parterre garden, a Chinese garden; a circular rose garden; an angel garden; an alpine garden with Lewisias, Pasque flowers and small alpine plants; a pond and stream garden, which is actually two ponds with a stream in between, growing Astilbes and Hostas, with a Chinese Peony pavilion beside the pond; and a developing woodland with trees like Tulip Tree, a Weeping Willow, a Trident Maple, Gingko, Pear, Birch, Beech, Sopora, Cherry, Judas Tree and Chinese Elm, all under-planted with rhododendrons, azaleas and bluebells. I love the little extra garden furnishings:There are also a number of lovely roses: Mme Grégoire Staechlin over the arbour; Crépuscule with an orange Abutilon neighbour; Lorraine Lea and Duchesse de Brabant on an arch over the path; as well as Abraham Darby , Complicata; Sparrieshoop and Rugspin. Dominic and Chris sell a number of perennials, as well as their main focus: herbaceous and tree peonies.
Other Places to Visit in the Southern Highlands:
Lydie du Bray Antiques
117 Old Hume Highway Braemar, near Mittagong. Ph: (02) 4872 2844
A wonderful selection of imported French antiques and decorative items, housed in the house, outbuildings and garden of Kamilaroi, a turn-of-the-century homestead. We particularly loved all the garden furniture and accoutrements including: garden gates, arbours and gazebos; tables, chairs and benches; statues and fountains; bird baths and bird cages; jardinières, urns and a variety of pots of different types and sizes.Dirty Jane’s
A wonderful vintage mecca with over 75 individual dealers in three warehouse spaces. We finally found our four beautiful full-length lounge room curtains in the far corner of one of the sheds and after slight modification from a triple to a double pleat, they fit the windows perfectly and already being fully lined, saved us a mountain of work and expense! The fabric alone (at least 5 metres per curtain), a vintage Sanderson fabric called Salad Days, would cost a mint and is a perfect backdrop for our old cream and silver American Embassy lounge suites, which we found in our local antique shop. The curtains, which ironically were imported from America three weeks beforehand, look so sumptuous in the room and it feels like they have been there forever, even though we still pinch ourselves that we have been so lucky!Country Accents
A veritable treasure trove for anyone interested in textile crafts with separate rooms devoted to cross-stitch and tapestry; embroidery threads (photo below); knitting wool and needles; beads; and books and patterns.
370 Bong Bong St Bowral Ph 0439 025853
Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm; Saturday 10 am to 4 pm
Beautiful selection of fabrics for dressmaking. I am looking forward to sewing a dress from this beautiful blue and white fabric! The book titled ‘Art and the Gardener‘ is for Christmas, while the book about Glenmore was a birthday present for Ross.
Mt Murray Nursery
Lot 1 Old Dairy Close (off Berrima Road)Moss Vale NSW 2577Ph ( 02) 48694111
Stocks a wonderful range of cool climate plants including maples, conifers and native trees; shrubs like rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias; roses and clematis; hedging plants; fruiting plants; vegetables and herbs; annuals and perennials and pots and ornaments. These are the garden spoils, collected on our trip from the various gardens and nurseries.Manning Lookout
We drove home via Fitzroy Falls and Kangaroo Valley. It is well worth taking a short detour up a rough gravel road (Manning Lookout Rd) to a spectacular cliff line and views over Kangaroo Valley.We had a wonderful weekend away in the Southern Highlands and could easily repeat the experience every Spring, revisiting these and other gardens including Retford Park, MiltonPark and Camden House! For more on the wonderful open gardens in this area in Spring, as well as opening dates, please see:
For more information about the history of these gardens, it is also worth reading:
Gardens of the Southern Highlands New South Wales 1828 – 1988: A Fine Extensive Pleasure Ground by Jane Cavanough, Anthea Prell and Tim North.
This is the last of my general garden posts for the year. Next year, I will be focusing more on rose gardens. It is also the second last post for 2016! I will be posting the December Garden on Boxing Day. I hope you all have a wonderful relaxing Christmas and a well-earned break for the year! Much Love and Best Wishes to you all, Jane and Ross xxx
Last Spring, while impatiently waiting for our garden to wake up, we had a wonderful long weekend away from the 14th to 16th October. It was timed to coincide with the Spring Fair at Glenmore House, Camden, so we based ourselves at Mittagong, so that we could explore some of the other Spring gardens in the Southern Highlands. We had the most wonderful time, starting with Red Cow Farm, Sutton Forest, on Friday afternoon, then Glenmore House and Moidart on Saturday and Chinoiserie and Perennial Hill, both in Mittagong, on the Sunday before driving home. All totally different, yet equally special : an artistic romantic garden; an organic vegetable garden; a grand old formal garden; a specialist peony garden and a new collector’s garden. Throw in some browsing in the beautiful shops of Bowral, as well as an amazing needlecraft shop in Mittagong and some antique foraging, and you have the recipe for a perfect weekend away! I have broken this post into three parts, which I will post on three consecutive days, to reduce its word count. In Part 1, I will be describing Red Cow Farm and Moidart. In Part 2, Glenmore House and in Part 3, the newer collectors’ gardens of Perennial Hill and Chinoiserie.
Red Cow Farm
7480 Illawarra Highway Sutton Forest, 5 km south of Mossvale 2.5 hectares (6 acres)
Open 8 months of the year from late September to the end of May, 10am – 4 pm. Closed Christmas Day.
$10 Adults; $8 Seniors and $4 children (4 to 14 years old)We first discovered Red Cow Farm last Autumn and resolved to revisit it in Spring to see the 800 old roses in bloom, but unfortunately, it was a little early, due to the cooler temperatures we have been experiencing, so it’s a definite on our holiday agenda next year in early November! Here is a Spring rose and an Autumn rose from each visit. Despite the lack of old rose blooms, it was still well worth visiting the gardens again for all the beautiful Spring flowers. In fact, I would visit in any season, except obviously Winter, when the garden is closed! It is one of my favourite gardens! I love its size and scale; the different garden areas; the unusual and rare plantings; the variety of texture, form and colour in all the plantings; and the wonderful use of colour, as well as light and shade.This beautiful romantic English style cool climate garden was created by Ali Mentesh and Wayne Morrisey, who bought the property back in 1990. They designed a series of 20 garden rooms and spaces around the 1820s stone cottage, which was originally built by ex-convict, George Sewell, as a gentleman’s residence and named Red Cow Farm after the red Hereford cattle in the paddocks next door. Here is a photo of the garden plan, given to us on our first visit:Starting from the cottage garden in front of the house, the camellia walk leads via the Apollo Walk to the Abbess’s Garden, complete with its own chapel and angel statue; topiared cones; and beds full of exuberant plantings of old roses, dahlias, tulips and perennials and wonderful colour combinations. The riot of colour and form contrasts dramatically with the Beech Walk next to it. Two portals are cut into the high hedges, which were being trimmed on our first visit. The top of the walk leads back to a circular pergola, clothed in climbing roses and the house courtyard, while the lower doorway leads down to a beautiful Hazelnut Walk, under-planted with hostas, primroses, hellebores, euphorbias, tulips and other bulbs. and the pond, with its own island and antique sailing boat and the bog garden, lined with yellow and blue iris. I loved the golden light in the woodland and the play of dappled light and shade. Resisting the temptation to explore the island on the lake, we meandered down the long herbaceous border, which ended with an obelisk and a wonderful borrowed landscape view of cattle quietly grazing the hillside beyond. We had to retrace our steps to the next border, as the ground was a bit boggy and the bees in their beehives very active! I love the variety in textures, colour and form in this garden, which was equally lovely last Autumn with all the deciduous foliage starting to colour. Red maples contrast with blue conifers and trees with golden and variegated foliage and stems like this wonderful stand of bamboo. I love the use of grasses in this garden! The woodland contains many rare trees and maples and is under-planted with massive rhododendrons and birches with paths leading to seats and restful shady corners, as well as back to the lake. I loved the bluebells, buttercups, cyclamen, fothergilla, rhododendrons and trilliums.There are numerous statues of cherubs, nude males, mythological gods and gargoyles throughout the garden.The island is accessed via a bridge covered with old roses, Lamarque (see bottom photo) and Albertine, falling into the water. We saw two very monstrous carp feeding in the pond.We then wandered back through the shrub and flower walk to the old gardener’s cottage and chook pen, where crimson rosellas, galahs, mickeys and crested pigeons were also feeding with the hens! It is such a delightful old cottage with so much charm! I love the circular flowerbed in the courtyard, which was filled to the brim with bright colourful zinnias last Autumn. This Spring, two large tubs of tree peonies Paeonia suffruticosa were in full bloom at the end of the pergola. Against the house is a long pond with much prettier smaller goldfish. The flower/shrub borders are separated from the orchard of apples, pears and stone fruits by the Crab Apple Walk.Just above the orchard is the Monastery Garden, a walled garden, measuring 25m by 8m, built in 1996 in the design of a Celtic cross. The formal beds are separated by paths, made of a mix of bluestone, sand and cement, and defined by English box hedging Buxus sempervirens. Plantings include: Maltese Cross Lychnis chalcedonica; Cascade Penstemon Penstemonserrulatus; Delphinium ‘Black Knight’; Geranium x riversleaianum ‘Russell Prichard’; tulips; and old roses: Reine des Violettes, Pax and Felicia. Statues of saints on plinths abound in the monastery beds including : St. Jude, St. Joseph and St. Anthony, all imported from Canada; St. Francis from Mexico and the patron saint of gardens, St Fiacre, a commissioned artwork by an Australian artist. There is also a large stone wishing well with intricately carved sides in the centre of the cross, a huge carved bell and a large Gothic baptismal font just outside the stone arch entrance to this part of the garden. A wisteria walk separates the vegetable garden and Montfort’s Nursery from the Monastery Garden. The kitchen garden is sheltered from the wind by huge old pine trees and is full of fresh vegetables and herbs. The nursery contains many rare self-propagated plants for sale. Ali is very knowledgeable about all the plants, having had over 20 years of experience designing private gardens in Sydney and Canberra, as well as on the South Coast and the Southern Highlands. The final section of the garden is a walled garden next to the house, full of colour and scent and a birdbath in the corner. A small shop in the front room of the house contains gifts and garden souvenirs: home-made jams, scented candles and framed prints of the garden. The garden is also used for weddings and photo shoots.
19 – 21 Eridge Park Rd Burradoo, near Bowral 5 acres
Ph (02) 4861 2600
Open mid-September to late October each year; 10am to 4pm. $7 per adult
One of the grand old gardens of the Southern Highlands, Moidart was built in 1932 by James Burn, a member of the Burns Philp company, after it was split off from the Eridge Park Estate, and was named after a district on the west coast of Scotland. This iconic garden was constructed concurrently with the house, so was relatively well-established by the time the building was completed in 1935. The garden was designed by landscaper gardener Mr Buckingham, with much consultation with the architect of the house, Laidley Dowling, so it all fits seamlessly together as an integrated whole , the basic design remaining unchanged for over almost 90 years, although plant growth has altered the emphasis in some parts of the garden. For example, the conifers at the front of the house have now blocked all the views out of the garden and the huge mature trees are casting much greater shade over the garden, altering plant habitats and the growth of plants underneath. The same family still owns the property and lives in the grand old house.Much of the work was done by Bowral local, the late Clarie Worner, who apparently prepared the ground for planting by using dynamite to disrupt the solid layer of shale on the surface! A family friend and amateur botanist, DWC Shiress, chose many of the exotic tree and shrub species, which include specimens of Giant Sequoia (photos above); Cypress conifers; Monterey Cypress; Chestnut; Red Oak; Copper Beech; London Plane; Golden Ash; Golden Elm; Weeping Elm; Weeping Cherry; Tulip Tree; Crab Apple; Dogwoods; Cornus contraversa variegata; Davidia involucrata; Edgeworthia; Camellias and Echiums. Their relative positions can be seen on this mudmap of the garden design:The main driveway winds through a mature woodland to a turning circle, where the main house finally comes into view, before ending in a garage at the side of the house. However, we entered the garden through a woodland past the hosta walk; hellebores, bluebells and pulmonaria; rhododendrons, azaleas and viburnums; and the Bamboo Garden;emerging at a huge old camellia, very similar to the one at our front door. Below the camellia is an expansive lawn, studded with mature deciduous trees in fresh new leaf : elm, beech and plane trees. To the right is a serene round goldfish pond. We wandered down to the courtyard in front of the house, full of Iceberg standard roses and a silver garden. The central stone circular steps lead down to the first terrace, but the further two terraces must be walked the whole length to access them. It is such a lovely stroll past mature trees and shrubs like azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and viburnums and herbaceous perennial borders. We looked down over the hellebore and bluebell walk to a paddock and large dam with geese and Highland cattle.To the south of the house is a delightful sunken rose garden, which is viewed from the house over a box hedge. It is formally laid out with box-edged garden beds, gravel paths, a central flowering crab apple and two sandstone semi-circular seats at either end. While it was too early for the roses, the peonies were a real show! Behind the sunken garden is the daffodil walk in amongst beautiful lilacs and dogwoods in full bloom, including an unusual double form of Cornus.There is a lovely pink dogwood at the back of the house.Moidart is famous for its collection of rare plants, bulbs, shrubs and trees and fortunately, it is possible to purchase many of them at a plant stall at the entrance, as well as online from Moidart Rare Plants: http://www.moidart.com.au/. More tomorrow…!!!
Camellias are indispensable to the Winter garden and bloom generously from late Autumn through to mid Spring. They are long-lived, evergreen ornamental shrubs and small trees (up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide) with glossy, dark green leaves.Their blooms exhibit great variability in :
Colour: Pure white to deep dark red; Bicolour combinations
Size: Miniature: less than 6cm; Small: 6-7.5 cm; Medium: 7.5-9cm; Medium-Large: 9-10cm; Large: 10-12.5cm; and Very Large: more than 12.5cm; and
Flowering period (these times refer to Australia and Southern Hemisphere):
Early: Autumn: March to June; Mid: Autumn to Winter:Mid June to August; Late: Winter to Spring: Late August to October.My only reservation about these beautiful flowers is that most of them have no scent, but I have named a few fragrant varieties later on! Despite that, it doesn’t seem to worry the bees! The fruit of the camellia is a globe-shaped capsule with 3 compartments (locules), each with 1-2 large brown seeds.
We were lucky enough to inherit a huge old camellia tree right at our entrance and its white, pale pink, striped pink and deep pink double blooms sustain our spirits all Winter. They look beautiful against the dark green foliage and their fallen blooms form an attractive carpet underneath, interspersed with violets and hellebores. Their seeds strike well, producing many tiny seedlings beneath the parent plant. Up until now, I went along with the suggestion that it was a multi-graft camellia, since it bears flowers of a number of different colour combinations, but during my research for this post, I came across an article (www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/australia-s-first-camellia) by Graham Ross about an early Australian variety: C.japonica ‘Aspasia Macarthur’, which also throws blooms of a number of different colours. It has flowers of variable colour from a pale flesh or cream colour with pinkish/ red splashes, reverting to pure pink and pure red flowers. It also has a number of sports including ‘Lady Loch’ 1889, which has medium to large pale pink peony flowers, and ‘Otahuhu Beauty’ 1904 with medium informal double rose pink blooms. For photos of all the sports, see : http://www.camellias.pics/mutations-gb.php?langue=gb#ANC-ID1106 and https://humecamellia.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/850/ . I have strong suspicions that my old plant might be ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ or at least related to it, as its flowers are very similar to all of these varieties. Graham Ross states that his plant dates from 1920 and our plant could well be the same, as our house was built in 1925. There is also a useful site for camellia identification: www.camellias.pics/index-gb.php?langue=gb, though I was a bit confused as to which flower to include in their search facility!I have also planted some new camellia plants along the fence line:
C.vernalis ‘Star above Star’ : I first saw this beautiful camellia at my friend’s place at Black Mountain, NSW (1st photo below) and on the way home, I found a plant at a nursery. It has just bloomed for the first time, its creamy-pink bloom ageing to a lolly-pink (2nd and 3rd photos below);
C.japonica ‘Nuccio’s Gem’: I was thrilled to discover a tiny specimen at our local hardware store, as its exquisite, formal double white flower has always been a favourite of mine;
And C.japonica ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ : It has had a number of eye-catching, pretty, pure red formal double blooms this year.Camellias belong to the order Ericales, which includes azaleas and blueberries, and the family Theaceae, which also contains Stewartia and Gordonia, all plants having serrated glossy leaves (mostly evergreen), flowers with multi-stamens and fruit in capsules or seedpods. The genus Camellia, named after the Jesuit priest and botanist, George Kamel (1661-1706), has between 200 and 300 species. Here are some brief notes about some of the main species:
The most famous species is Camellia japonica, from which thousands of cultivars have been developed. It hails from the forests of Japan, as well as China and South Korea (300-1100m altitude), where it is pollinated by the Japanese White Eye bird (Zosterops japonica). It grows best in partial shade.Camellia sasanqua is also very well-known. It is a smaller shrub with denser, smaller, rounded foliage and smaller flowers with a similar form and colour to the Japonicas. Unlike the blooms of the latter, which fall intact, sasanqua flowers shatter on impact, carpeting the ground below with petals rather than flowers. They also tolerate more sun than C.japonica, ‘sasanqua’ being the Japanese word for ‘sun’. Sasanquas are native to Southern Japan and the Liu Kiu Islands.Camellia vernalis is a cross between C.japonica and C.sasanqua and its blooms do not shatter easily like the sasanquas.‘Star above Star’ is an example.Camellia reticulata is also grown as an ornamental shrub in many gardens and has larger, showy flowers and leaves with distinct veins. It also tolerate a fair amount of sun. There are a number of hybrids, which have been produced by crosses between C.reticulata and C.japonica/ C.sasanqua.
Camellia sinesis, from China (as well as Japan and the rest of South East Asia), is a very important commercial plant, as it is the source of all our black and green tea and Camelliaoleifera is harvested for its oil, which is used in cooking and cosmetics. I have just bought a plant of C.sinensis at our local hardware store for its lovely little white flowers and novelty value, as well as in deference to our family’s huge consumption of tea! It has very small, simple, semi-fragrant , white flowers with a boss of gold stamens from late Summer to early Autumn. Bees and butterflies love the flowers, while humans prefer the leaves! Tea leaves were used as medicine in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) and have been consumed as a beverage since the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE). In green tea, the leaves are dried and steamed, while in black tea, the leaves are dried and fermented. We enjoyed an informative visit to the Nerada Tea plantation on the Atherton Tableland, Queensland. (http://www.neradatea.com.au) in 2008. We learnt that C.sinensis can reach a height of 5-10 m if left untrimmed (see old tree in the first photo below) and that it takes up to 7 years before the leaves can be harvested for tea, after which the plant will produce leaves for tea for 100 years! We also had a guided tour of the processing factory (2nd photo below).Other species have smaller leaves and miniature flowers and a few are even scented like C.lutchuensis, C.transnokoensis, C.fraterna; C.kissi; C.yuhsienensis and C.grijsii. The japonica cultivar ‘Kramer’s Supreme’ is slightly fragrant, while the fragrance of the sasanqua cultivar ‘Daydream’ is more intense, but not sweet. Other fragrant hybrids, using C.fraterna, C.yuhsienensis and C.grijsii as breeding stock, include : ‘ Cinammon Cindy’; ‘Cinammon Scentsation’; ‘Fragrant Joy’; ‘Fragrant Pink’; ‘Helen B’; ‘Hallstone Spicy’; ‘High Fragrance’; ‘Sweet Emily Kate’ and ‘Scentuous’.
Camellias originated in Eastern and Southern Asia from the Himalayas to Japan and Indonesia. Camellia japonica was portrayed in 11th Century Chinese porcelain and paintings, usually as a single red bloom. The oldest camellia in the world, at the Panlong Monastery in China, dates from 1347. The camellia was introduced to the West by the Dutch East India Company surgeon, Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), who discovered them while in Japan. On his return, he described the details of more than 30 varieties. The oldest camellia trees in Europe were planted at the end of the 16th century at Campobello, Portugal.
The first camellias in Australia were planted by Alexander Macleay in 1826 at Elizabeth Bay House. The history of the camellia in Australia is recounted in http://www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/australia-s-first-camellia. One of the early pioneers was the Waratah Camellia, C.japonica ‘Anemoniflora’, planted in the Sydney Botanic Garden in 1828 and by William Macarthur in 1831 at Camden Park Estate to be used in his breeding program. Other varieties imported in the same 1831 shipment were: ‘Alba Plena’, ‘Camura’ (Syn.’Incamata’) ‘Myrtifolia’, ‘Rubra’ and ‘Welbankiana’. In 1850, Macarthur listed 62 hand-bred varieties, the first of which was C.japonica ‘Aspasia’ or ‘Aspasia Macarthur’, as it is now known. By 1883, the leading nursery in Australia, Shepherd and Company, listed 160 varieties of C.japonica, but by 1891, the number of varieties had dropped to 53 and in 1916 to 16.
The revival of the camellia industry in Australia owes an enormous debt to Professor EG Waterhouse, a world authority on camellias,who researched and wrote 2 books about these lovely plants and propagated them between 1914-1977 at his home ‘Eryldene’ (17 McIntosh St Gordon, North Sydney) and nursery, Camellia Grove Nursery, based at St. Ives from 1939 to 2004 and now at Glenorie, 8 Cattai Ridge Rd., Glenorie (http://www.camelliagrove.com.au/). ‘Eryldene’, an Art Deco house built in 1914, is listed on the National Estate and the NSW Heritage Register and is open to the public on selected weekends during Winter. The next open day is 13th and 14th August 2016. See: http://www.eryldene.org.au/ for dates and further information.
All the states have their own camellia societies, affiliated under an umbrella association called Camellias Australia Inc.(See their website: http://camelliasaustralia.com.au). It also hosts a project called the Camellia Ark, set up to conserve some of the very rare early species in Australia, which are now disappearing. It includes 75 endangered cultivars and species and can be accessed at : http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/gardens/camellia-ark/.Camellias are best selected when in bloom. They should be planted (and transplanted) during Autumn and Winter. Their ideal site is:
Partial shade. Full shade reduces the amount of flowering, while full sun will burn the foliage; White and light pink varieties prefer more shade; C.sasanqua and C.reticulata will tolerate more sun than C.japonica.
Organic, slightly acidic (pH 6-6.5), semi-moist but well-drained soil.
The site should be prepared prior to planting with generous amounts of peat moss, compost or old manure mixed in with the soil. The hole should be twice the diameter of the root ball and 1½ times the depth. The planting depth is critical, otherwise if the root ball is set too deep, the plant may refuse to bloom. Plant, so that the root ball is 1 inch above the existing soil level to allow for settling. Water heavily and keep well-watered until the plant is established. A thick layer (2-3 inches) of mulch (leaf mould or shredded bark) will help to retain moisture. Having said that, make sure the soil is well-drained, as camellias hate wet feet, as too much water results in root rot.
Camellias are very easy, minimal care plants, which seldom require pruning, except for weak, spindly, or dead branches. For a more upright growth, the inner branches can be thinned out and the lower limbs shortened. If you must prune, do it immediately after the blooms fade or in mid Summer. They are not heavy feeders, but if growth is weak or the leaves are yellowing, a slow release Azalea and Camellia Fertilizer can be applied sparingly around the drip line of the plant in December, after which the plant should be watered well. Avoid the use of mushroom compost, fresh chook manure and lime (all too alkaline). A few handfuls of sulphate of potash can be beneficial just before flowering.Diseases are mainly fungal and algal, including;
Spot Disease – round spots and upper side of leaves silvery, leading to loss of leaves
Flower Blight – flowers brown and fall
Canker – caused by fungus Glomerella cingulata, which attacks through wounds.
Physiological diseases include:
Salt Injury – high levels of salt in soil
Chlorosis – insufficient acidity in soil prevents the absorption of essential soil elements
Bud Drop – loss and decay of buds due to over-watering, high temperatures and potbound roots
Bud Balling – treat with 2 tsp Epsom salts to 10 litres water; a good feed of Azalea and Camellia fertilizer or move to a different place.
Camellias can also suffer from oedema and sunburn.
Pests include :
Fuller rose beetle Pantomorus cervinus
Mealy bugs Planococcus citri and Planococcus longispinus
Weevils Otiorhyncus slacatus and Otiothyncus ovatus and
Tea Scale Fiorinia theae
Camellias can be propagated by :
Seed: Hybrid plants may be sterile; Seed is not necessarily true to its parentage; Seeds should be soaked in warm water for 24 hours and sown indoors in Spring and Fall in a 70-75 degree growing medium until germination (within 1-2 months). Our old camellia does not seem to have any trouble producing seedlings under its skirt, without any help from us!
Softwood cuttings: From new growth in early Summer, but is a slow process; Each cutting should have more than 5 nodes; Remove the lowest leaves and trim the other leaves by half. Insert into a mix of sand and peat moss.
Camellias are lovely specimen plants and can also be planted as massed plantings and in mixed borders. Sasanqua camellias planted close together make great hedges and screens. They can be espaliered and trellised, as well as grown in containers and planters on patios, porches, pathways and gazebos. They can even be used in bonsai and topiary or grown as standards.They are the food plant of some Lepidoptera, including the Engrailed Ectropis, Crepuscularia. In China, camellias are lucky symbols, exchanged as gifts during the Chinese New Year (their Spring), and promising prosperity and a long life. They also have a superstition that Chinese women should never wear a camellia in their hair or they won’t be able to bear sons for a long time. In the language of flowers, a white camellia means ‘exquisite loveliness’, while a red camellia means ‘unpretentious excellence’.Camellia foliage is used in floristry as a filler. I like to float their flower heads in a shallow bowl of water, though I use a pottery bowl these days! I once had a lovely glass shallow bowl, but it had a small lip, which led to its downfall and a very memorable dinner party! Filled with floating flowers and tea lights, the candles floated under the edge of the lip and started to heat the glass. I dismissed a small ‘ping’, only to have the whole bowl literally explode a few minutes later, the water pouring all over and even through the dinner table! Very dramatic and certainly a conversation stopper! These are my latest camellia blooms. They can also be used in corsages, wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths. Care should be taken when handling the flowers, as they bruise and brown easily. Flowers last 5-7 days in floral work and may need wiring. Preservative is optional. Here is a photo of a beautiful vase of ‘Star above Star’ in our bedroom, when we visited out friends in Black Mountain. Thank you, Jane xxx
For more information on camellias, which you can enjoy over a pot of China Tea, please see: https://simplebooklet.com/camelliaquide.
I don’t know if it was my imagination, but Winter seemed to start later this year with the Autumn leaves persisting into early June. Certainly, the frosts were later, the tree dahlias eventually succumbing to heavy winds rather than frosts this year! We had some wild and woolly weather in the first week of June with one quarter of our annual rainfall (247 mm) in 3 days. The gully and creek were in flood- the creek level rising high, with the fast-flowing current cutting hard into the bank and bringing down trees. The local coast also experienced enormous tides with cunjevoi and sea tulips ripped from their beds and washed up on the beach. We had so many puddles in the garden and Ross had to race out in the middle of it all to dig a trench around the cutting garden. By mid-June, the weather finally turned cold with some lovely sky effects.
The Winter garden finally arrived, its palette predominantly white and purple with a few lemons and pinks thrown in! The violets are a mass in the maple bed and along the path. My rockery is full of bulbs poking their heads up, as well as divinely-scented lemon jonquils and white Coconut Ice dianthus, both demanding obeisance every time we walk past! I also love the fresh lemony smell of the tiny flowers of the Winter Honeysuckle, as we enter the back porch. Our daphne is in full bud, promising further fragrance as the Winter progresses. The wallflowers in the Soho bed (below) and stock in the cutting garden have a warm spicy scent. The bulbs have greatly multiplied under trees and in the cutting garden with tulips, iris, daffodils, freesias and ranunculas all growing madly.
The jonquils and tiny snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, are so pretty. I constantly look for new bulbs every day and it is always so exciting when I spot one emerging from the soil like this tiny bluebell under the crabapple tree. The hellebores are all in bud, ready to provide a splash of colour under the trees. I love the sweet diminutive forget-me-nots and the splash of gold of the Winter Jasmine, Jasminium nudiflorum, on the laneway. Here is a colourful black and gold ladybird from the bottom of the garden. I am really looking forward to seeing the japonica buds open. The camellia at the front door has already blessed us with a number of light pink and deep pink blooms. The new camellias are also in bud and Star-above-Star has had its first flower. The roses have still thrown out the odd bloom: Eglantyne (pink) and Golden Celebration (gold). My birthday Souvenir de la Malmaison is already in new leaf. I cut the last blooms of the roses and frost-damaged hydrangeas for two final bouquets for the season. I pruned the hydrangeas and all the Soho Bed roses rather severely on the weekend.We also turned and transplanted quite a few of the roses. Despite our careful observation of outer buds and planting for correct shape, my roses have a habit of sending their shoots out at 90 degrees to where I want them! Now that the roses are dormant, it is a good time to correct their positions- hence Lamarque was dug up after the heavy rains (a perfect time as the soil was so soft), turned 90 degrees and replanted, so that its long canes can diverge horizontally and create the desired fan shape up the house wall instead of growing out from the wall as before. We did the same with Cornelia, so it arches it long canes to the left over the gateway to the chooks (we have yet to build a simple wooden single arch for it), instead of throwing them up into the apple tree to its right. We transplanted Aimee Vibert from its initial position as part of the cutting garden screen behind the Soho Bed to the other side of the arch to replace the dying Kathleen. We also turned Penelope, so it was a member of the hybrid musk hedge rather than the vegetable garden! See the new hedge-line in the photo below : From front to back : Penelope, Aimee Vibert and Cornelia. We made a decision to eliminate the screening hedge between the Soho Bed and cutting gardens. There really was not enough room for the hedge and path, the mature shrubs would have cast too much shade on the cutting garden and in the end, we concluded that we actually like seeing the cutting garden. So, we transplanted the white lilac to the corner of the cutting garden, the Philadelphus to the main pergola corner next to climbing Tea rose, Adam (photos 1 and 2), the Viburnum burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’ to the camellia border (photo 5), the Exochorda between the purple-pink lilac and the pink-and-white Japonica (photo 4) and the Flowering Currant to the front of the Snowball tree (photo 3). Its future pink Spring blooms will complement the pink Weigela on the other side of the pergola entrance. We finally moved the Alister Stella Grey rose to the shed corner to create a golden yellow arch with Rêve d’Or in front of the cumquats, lemonade and quince trees. We still have a number of potted roses, raised from last Winter’s cuttings, to transplant- a hedge of Russelliana on the fence behind the White Mulberry and an Albertine hedge along the back side wall of the shed, the old timber a perfect background for the warm pink blowsy blooms.
We are starting to feel like we are finally achieving a sense of control and structure in the garden. We plan to build a compost bay with 3 divisions against the fence behind the no-dig cutting garden (see the bamboo markers behind the garden fork). The seed dahlias are over-wintering in the front of the bed under their blanket of mulch. Ross has just redug the patch behind the dahlias prior to sowing last year’s peony poppy seed for Spring, to be succeeded by zinnias in Summer and Autumn. Both plantings should benefit from having their own area, as both are very tall and take up a lot of room. Behind the zinnias and poppies will be a strawberry patch, then a path in front of the compost bay. On the left end of the compost bay, we will create an asparagus bed and on the right end, we will grow angelica and rhubarb.There are also self-seeded peony poppies sprouting in the Soho Bed and I have some Iceland poppies in egg cartons awaiting transplantation to the cutting garden. Other pending tasks are to construct the chook fence (and chook house) behind the hybrid musk hedges and transplant the natives in the old sandy septic tank, so we can transform it into a shallow rock-lined pond. Ross has limed the vegie garden. The growth of the new vegies is a bit slow because of the cold and Winter shade. We have yet to prune the raspberries and harvest the cumquats for marmalade! Our first lemonade fruit is almost ripe! We are anticipating a huge crop of loquats this year, as it is still flowering! With all this time in the garden, we have enjoyed the company of lots of little birds from fairy wrens to brown and yellow thornbills, flycatchers, eastern spinebills and silvereyes. We will often look up to see a King Parrot quietly grazing within arm’s reach. A large flock of Little Corellas materialized briefly one week, transforming bare branches into the appearance of white blossom. The very same roosting trees were a sea of pink the following week with a large flock of galahs. The rich diversity of bird life in our garden is a constant joy. We found the perfect spot on a Winter Honeysuckle branch to hang my bronze bird feeder, a birthday gift from a dear friend. It looks like it has been there forever! I will finish with a few photos of a spectacular Winter night sky last week.
Nothing gladdens the heart on a cold Winter’s day so much as a vase of cheery red or delicate soft pink-and-white or even virginal white sprays of Chaenomeles, nor the warmth, taste and sweet aroma of a jar of quince paste made from the golden fruit of Cydonia! In this post, I will be featuring both these plants, long-time favourites of mine and an essential element of every old-fashioned garden. Unfortunately, our tiny plants of flowering quince have only just started producing flower buds- in fact, they have not even lost all their leaves yet and our new quince tree is years away from bearing fruit, so I have used some images from http://www.pixabay.com, as well as old personal photos from our previous gardens. We also saw some wonderful old shrubs of 3 different colours (red/ white/ pink-and-white) blooming in the old garden at Bolobek, Mount Macedon, Victoria.
Chaenomeles, pronounced ‘kee-mom-ee-lees’, are also known as Flowering Quinces or Japonicas, though the latter really refers to the origin of one of the species (Japan) and also refers to camellias.
Extremely tough, low maintenance, heritage ornamental plants, they originated in China, Japan, Korea, Bhutan and Burma and their beautiful blooms are often depicted in oriental paintings.
Family : Rosaceae : 5 petals and 5 sepals : Includes apples and pears, strawberries, potentilla, cotoneaster and roses.
Genus : Chaenomeles: Derived from Greek words : Chaino, meaning ‘to gape’ and Melon, meaning ‘apple’, referring to the erroneous belief that the fruit splits open.
Originally placed in the genus Pyrus, then Cydonia, then back to Pyrus and finally Chaenomeles.
Chaenomeles are related to quinces (Cydonia oblonga) and Chinese Quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis), but are different to them in that there is no fuzz on the leaves of Chaenomeles and the flowers have deciduous sepals and styles, which are connate at the base.
Species : There are 3 species :
1.Chaenomeles speciosa : Ornamental Quince/ Chinese Flowering Quince
‘Speciosa’ means ‘showy’.
Native to China and Korea, they were introduced to Europe in 1784 by Joseph Banks as Pyrus japonica.
6-10 feet tall and wide.
Flowers are red, white or flecked with red and white.
Hard green apple-shaped fruit 5-6cm diameter.
2.Chaenomeles japonica : Kusa-boke (草木瓜) : Japanese Quince (japonica means Japanese) or Maule’s Quince, named after the Bristol nurseryman W Maule, who introduced the plant to Britain in 1869.
Smaller and suckers freely.
Flowers mainly red, but some varieties are pink or white.
Small golden apple –shaped fruit 3-4 cm wide and containing red-brown seeds.
3.Chaenomeles cathayensis : ‘cathayensis’ means ‘Chinese’, referring to its origin in China, as well as Bhutan and Burma.
6m tall shrub.
White or pink flowers.
Largest fruit of the genus 10-15mm long and 6-9cm wide.
x superba : C. speciosa x C. x japonica
x vilmoriniana : C. speciosa x C. cathayensis
x clarkiana : C. japonica x C. cathayensis
x californica : C. x superba x C. cathayensi
There are up to 500 named varieties of Chaenomeles including :
C.speciosa varieties :
Moorlooseii : Apple Blossom : 6 foot tall; spreading habit; large pink and white flowers 3.5cm across; coral buds open to white flowers, which turn pink as they age.
Yukigoten : 1.5m tall and wide; semi-double white flowers.
Toyo-Nishiki: 6-10 foot tall and wide with pink, red and white flowers all on the same branch, as well as within the same flower.
Contorta: 2-3 foot tall and wide with twisted, contorted dark brown branches and pink and white flowers.
Double Take™ series: Scarlet Storm; Orange Storm and Pink Storm : 4 foot tall and wide; thornless; fruitless; double flowers in scarlet or orange or pink.
Rosea plena : semi-double pale rose pink flowers.
Falconet Charlet : semi-double salmon-pink and rose flowers.
Red Kimono : red flowers; thornless.
Winter Cheer : compact- 2-3 foot high; scarlet red flowers- one of the first to flower in late Autumn/early Winter.
Simonii : prostrate dwarf, spreading habit; semi-double dark red flowers.
The flowering quinces, which we have planted in our garden, are all C. speciosa varieties : Apple Blossom 2-3m tall and wide; White Flowering Quince 1.5m tall and 1m wide; and Red Flowering Quince 1m tall and 1m wide.
2. C.japonica varieties
Fuji: upright; vase-shaped; thornless; single red flowers.
Orange Beauty : 1.2m tall and 1.5m wide; orange red flowers.
C.x superba varieties
Rowallane : developed early years of last century; bright red flowers.
Crimson & Gold: 1-1.5m tall and 1.5-2.5m wide; suckers easily, so makes a good hedge; flowers are dark red with a gold middle.
Nicoline : small shrub; single scarlet flowers.
Knaphill Scarlet : flame red flowers.
Hollandia: single scarlet flowers; thorns.
Texas Scarlet: 2-3 foot tall; red flowers.
Fire Dance : C. x superb x C. speciosa : red flowers followed by a heavy crop of fragrant fruit.
Colombia: deep red flowers.
Vermilion : orange flowers.
Pink Lady : dark pink flowers.
Cameo: compact, low and spreading; double pink and white flowers.
Minerva: compact; flowers range from white to pale peach and pink.
Jet Trail: ground cover with white flowers.
Lemon & Lime : greenish flowers.
Deciduous shrub, up to 3m tall and wide, though dwarf varieties can be 1m tall and up to 2m wide.
Multi-stemmed, they sucker freely to form dense thickets.
Long, thin, sharp thorns along their stems, so they should not be planted along paths and care should be taken when pruning or weeding.
They are one of the first flowers in Winter, their flowers appearing on bare stems from early Winter to early Spring, when the foliage reappears. The flowers are 3 – 4.5 cm wide, have 5 petals and a boss of golden stamens in the middle and are borne in clusters. They come in a wide variety of colour (white, pink, salmon and red) and form (mostly single, but some semi-double and double). They bloom for 2 months and deepen in colour as they age. The flowers are hermaphroditic (both male and female organs in the one flower) and are pollinated by bees.
Leaves are oval, glossy, simple and dark green; have a serrated edge and are alternately arranged.
Fruit : pome with 5 carpels, borne in Autumn; it looks and smells like a quince, but is inferior to the latter. Hard and astringent, it is softer and less tart after bletting (softening with fermentation process); Higher in Vitamin C than lemons and more pectin than apples or quinces; can still be made into liqueurs and preserves like paste, jelly and marmalade. Alice Coates in her book ‘Garden Shrubs and Their Histories’ describes a tea party during the First World War, in which Reverend JJ Jacobs serves jelly made from 6 different varieties of C. speciosa.
Use in the Garden
While the Victorians grew them as standards, today they are grown as :
An open bush or shrub; in massed plantings in a woodland garden or as an early Spring accent in a mixed shrub border; or as a wall shrub.
They can be espaliered on a wall or in a fan-shape. Once the flexible branches are tied to the horizontal framework, the side growths can be pruned back to a couple of buds in Summer.
They make an excellent impenetrable thorny security hedge, deterring people, dogs and cats and even deer, but not rabbits! They provide excellent wildlife habitats, especially for nesting birds and are a good bee plant, providing both nectar and pollen. They are the food plant for the larvae of some Lepidoptera : Brown Tail (Euproctis chrysorrhea)and Leaf Miner (Bucculatrix pomifoliela). Here is my daughter’s latest feature plant watercolour, depicting a very colourful abstract rabbit wearing a floral crown of Japonica blooms!
Climate: Wide climatic range and can be grown everywhere in Australia except the tropics. They can tolerate cold up to minus 25 degrees Celsius. Because they are one of the first deciduous flowers to appear, they can be damaged by severe frosts, so avoid planting them in frost pockets.
Growing in sun or part-shade, they flower better when planted in sunny positions.
Soil : They also tolerate a wide range of soils from acid to slightly alkali, but will become chlorotic (yellowing leaves due to insufficient chlorophyll) on very alkaline soils. They do best in a fertile, neutral, well-drained soil. They don’t like wet feet. They tolerate heavy clay soils, but are not as vigorous.
They are really tough plants, coping both with drought and urban atmospheric pollution. Windy areas should be avoided, as the wind can snap the branches.
Planting and Care :
Buy plants in late Winter/ early Spring, when the plants are blooming so you can select the desired colour. There is a big variation in all the colours, especially the red hues!
Dig a hole no deeper than the depth of the soil in the pot, but twice as wide.
If the soil is clay, add grit to the clay or grow your plants in a raised bed of loose topsoil and compost. Avoid frost pockets or very windy locations, as the wind can snap the branches.
After planting, water well and mulch to suppress the weeds and retain soil moisture. Weeding can be perilous with all the sharp thorns and you don’t want unsightly Kikuya marring the picture-perfect blooms! Water at the base of the plants, as spraying water at the top will encourage rot.
Water well in the first year, then reduce the amount and frequency of watering once established, except in times of drought, when irrigation will promote more growth and better flowering.
A slow release fertilizer or compost can be applied in early Spring.
To avoid the development of a thorny thicket, pull out suckers as they appear. They can be pruned to any shape and size and will tolerate heavy pruning, though really it is best to keep it light. Prune just after the blooming is over, as the bush blooms on old wood. One source I read suggested removing one third of the oldest shoots right back to the ground each Spring, so that the centre does not become woody and congested and the flowers are shown off to their best advantage. That’s if you can get in there, that is!!! Otherwise, just remove any shoots growing in the wrong direction or any diseased wood.
Pests and Diseases :
They have few pests and diseases : occasional attacks by aphids, scab, brown scale or mites; fungal leaf spot during heavy Spring rain, which causes defoliation of the leaves, and the worst case scenario: fireblight, a bacterial disease common to all members of the Rosaceae family, which spreads through the plant’s vascular system until the plant eventually dies.
Cuttings are best. Take cuttings from half-ripe wood (new season’s growth) in Summer or mature wood (current year’s growth) in late Autumn and plant in a cold frame.
Layering can be done in late Spring and Autumn, but it takes a whole year to produce new plants.
Seeds can be planted as soon as they are ripe in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame and germinate within 6 weeks. Seed can be stored in the greenhouse in Winter. Prick out the seedlings and plant in individual pots. Plant out in Summer and protect the first Winter or plant out in the following late Spring.Uses : Chaenomeles make stunning indoor floral arrangement during a time when very few other plants are flowering. The blooms last well in water (vase life 3-10 days). Flowers should be picked when the buds are showing some colour, as tight buds will not open inside unless forced. The colour of the newly opened buds inside will be paler than those on the shrub outside.
To force stems to bloom indoors in late Winter:
The best flowers for forcing are near the top of the plant with the buds swollen and closely placed. The larger the bud, the more quickly it will open indoors.
Trim any side shoots or buds which will be under the water level of the vase.
Recut the stems on a long diagonal and place in a bucket of cold water in a cool place for 2 days.
Recut the stems again and place in a vase of fresh warm water and keep in a bright area. Within 4 weeks, you will have a beautiful bouquet, which will hold its blooms for 10 days or more.
Flowering Quince are popular in Ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arranging, as its long stems can be bent and shaped and the flowers are long-lasting, even when out of water (2-3 days).
C. speciosa has been widely used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The greenish-yellow unripe fruit is picked in late Summer/ early Autumn, blanched to a grey-white colour with boiling water, then cut in half lengthwise and dried. It relaxes the tendons, muscles and meridiens.
All Chaenomeles fruit has analgesic, anti-inflammatory; anti-spasmodic; astringent and digestive properties. It contains organic acids (malic; tartaric; fumaric; citric; ascorbic) and saponins, which reduce pain and spasms.
Chaenomeles has been used to treat the following conditions: sunstroke; arthritis and joint pain and swelling; muscle spasm; cholera and associated cramps; nausea, colic and indigestion; diarrhoea.
As already stated, the Cydonia genus originally contained the 3 shrubby quinces, now classified in the genus Chaenomeles, leaving the quince as the only member of the Cydonia genus today. The name, Cydonia, refers to the ancient Greek name of the Cretan town ‘Chania’. The latter was called ‘Cydon’ in Minoan times, a name, which is thought to be a corruption of the ancient Greek word ‘Chthonia’, meaning wet, rich and soily grounds, referring to the fertile dense forests, which once covered Crete. The Arabs are thought to be responsible for the name change of the city. When the Saracens from Cordoba, Spain razed the original town to the ground in 828AD, they built a new city with a suburb called ‘Al Chania Kome’, after the God’ Velchanos’ or ‘Vulcan’. They then applied the name ‘Al Chania’ to the whole city and after they left, the Byzantines removed the prefix ‘Al’ and the city became ‘Chania’. The species name ‘oblonga’ refers to the oblong shape of the fruit.
The modern name ‘Quince’ originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, derived from the old French cooin from the Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum.
The quince was cultivated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans and dedicated to Aphrodite (the Roman Venus), the Goddess of Love. It is a symbol of beauty, love, fertility and happiness and the fruit was given to every Greek bride on her wedding day. Eating quinces at a wedding was said to be preparative to the sweet and delightful days between married persons! Quinces are planted in the Balkans on the birth of a baby promising fertility, love and a happy life.
It was introduced to Britain in 1254 on the marriage of Eleanor (1241-1290) of Castile to the elder son of King Henry III, Edward I and were planted at the Tower of London. The Spanish love quince cheese, a sweet quince confection called ‘mermelada’, the original marmalade, whose name derives from the Portuguese word for quince: ‘marmelo’. It was only in the 18th century that citrus fruit were identified with the making of marmalade!
In 1292, the quince was held in high esteem. The cost of 100 quinces was 4s, compared with 3d for 100 apples and pears. However, by the early 20th century, quince production had decreased due to the rising popularity of apples and pears. They were introduced to the New World and Australia and New Zealand, where many of them are now wild. They are now rare in America due to their destruction by fireblight with only 100ha in production, mainly in California.
Worldwide, there are 43000 (106,000 acres) of quince in production, the total crop weighing 335 000 metric tons. Turkey is the largest producer, with 25 percent of the world’s crop, while China, Iran, Argentina and Morocco each produce less than 10 per cent of the world’s crop. There are 23 named varieties in production, including ‘’Champion’; ‘Isfahan’; ‘Morava’; ‘Vrajna’; and ‘Smyrna’ (our tree). ‘Champion’, an American variety, has large golden pear-shaped fruit with a slightly lemony fragrance mid to late season. Their fruit becomes a superb ruby red colour when cooked. ‘Smyrna’, originating in the Greek islands, but a favourite variety in Turkey, has rounder, slightly oblong fruit, which keep longer and have a stronger fragrance, but less prominent, but still excellent flavour. Maggie Beer (see later) likes this variety, because the white flesh holds its shape when cooking and doesn’t break up. It is also the best for quince paste.Description : A multi-stemmed shrub or small deciduous tree, 5-8m tall and 4-6m wide and takes 10-20 years to reach maturity. Our Smyrna quince will grow to 7m high and 7.5m wide. They are very long-lived and become increasingly gnarled and twisted with age.
The leaves are alternately arranged and are simple with entire margins and are covered with a dense pubescence of fine white hairs. The flowers appear after the leaves in Spring and are single; solitary; 4-5 cm diameter; pink and white and scented with 5 petals; 20 stamens; 5 styles and an inferior ovary with many ovules. Having hermaphroditic flowers, quinces are self-fertile, but can have larger yields of fruit from cross-pollination with another quince variety in the garden. They are pollinated by insects.
The fruit is a golden-yellow pome 7-12 cm long and 6-9cm wide. When immature, it has a dense grey-white pubescence, which rubs off before maturity in late Autumn, as the colour turns golden. In Australia, it is harvested between mid-February in warmer ares and late April in cooler areas. The stringy perfumed flesh is high in pectin, which decreases as the fruit ripens, but apart from a few varieties, generally, the fruit is too hard and astringent to eat raw, unless bletted.Growing Conditions:
Like its flowering namesake, Quinces are extremely tough and hardy. They are resistant to frost and hardy to minus 15 degrees Celsius. They require a minimum 500 hours of chilling to produce fruit i.e. less than 7 degrees Celsius, so thrive in cold climates. They are adapted to hot, dry climates and need warm sun to fully ripen the fruit. They are grown in Australia from the cool subtropics to the cool temperate areas.
As already stated, they perform best in a sunny position. They still grow well in semi-shade, but produce less fruit and can tolerate deep shade, but produce no fruit.
They like moist, fertile, light, slightly acidic soils best and hate water-logged soils. In highly alkaline soils, they become stunted and suffer iron chlorosis.
They can withstand both drought and severe cold, but avoid planting on south-facing slopes with a cold Spring (lack of pollinating insects); frosty hollows (flower damage and resultant lack of fruit) and excessive wind (broken branches).Planting and Care: Plant in late June/ early July when dormant. They may sucker as a young tree, so prune for the first few years to produce an open-crowned tree rather than a small thicket, which is much harder for control of pests and diseases. Prune minimally when older, as fruit sets on the current year’s growth. They like organic matter, so put some compost in the planting hole and feed 1-2 times a year with compost, aged manure or blood-and-bone. They don’t like being shifted. We bought the Smyrna quince tree photographed below for our friend’s 50th birthday- it’s the first tree in their orchard!Propagation : is mainly by cutting and grafting. Cuttings of mature wood are taken in Autumn and grown in a cold frame. Layering in Spring takes a full year to produce a new plant. Seed can also be sown, as soon as it is ripe, as well as in late Winter in a cold frame . Seedlings should be pricked out and kept in individual pots in the cold frame for the first Winter, planting out in their permanent position in late Spring and early Summer after the last frosts have passed.For more information on quince growing, see : http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2009-67-1-cydonia-oblonga-the-unappreciated-quince.pdf;
The worst one is Fireblight, which is common to apples, pears and quinces and is caused by a bacteria Erwinia amylova, which is particularly prevalent in areas with warm, humid Summers, thereby restricting its cultivation. Cydonia is one of the most susceptible of the Rosaceae family to fireblight, which spreads through the vascular system , eventually destroying the tree. The leaves and branches appear scorched and blackened, as if damaged by fire. To avoid, do not use excessive nitrogen and do not prune much. There is no cure, only prevention, though genetic modification may help.
My tree suffers from Fleck or Quince Leaf and Fruit Spot, caused by a fungus: Diplocarpon mespili ( formerly Fabraeae maculata). Symptoms include : reddish purple spots with tan centres and reddish halo on the leaves, which drop early; defoliation; brown spots on the fruit; disfigurement of fruit. Cool wet weather favours the development of the disease in Spring and it is worse in moist coastal areas. To treat, rake up and burn all the fallen leaves and remove affected leaves and dead wood and do not overhead irrigate. There are treatments with fungicide. See : http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/quince-leaf-spotPowdery mildew and rust can also be a problem. The main pests are Fruit Fly , Codling Moth and Light Brown Apple Moth. See : https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/plants/fruit-and-vegetables/a-z-list-of-horticultural-insect-pests/queensland-fruit-fly ;
Other pests include : Pear and Cherry Slug Worm; Borers; Curculio; Scale and Tent Caterpillars. Birds can also cause damage to the fruit.Uses :
An attractive display tree in the garden : superb Autumn colour.
The quince is the food plant for a number of Lepidoptera larvae:
Brown Tail Euproctis chrysorrhea; Bucculatrix bechsteinella; Bucculatrix pomelifoliella; Coleophora cerasivarella; Coleophora malivorella; Green Pug and Winter Moth.
Dwarfing Pear Root Stock
In England, France and the United States of America, the plant is widely used as a dwarfing pear root stock, the technique having been used in Angers, France before the 1500s using quince as a root stock dwarfs pear growth. It forces earlier fruiting and faster maturing of the pear fruit and encourages the growth of more fruit-bearing branches.4.Medicine
The fruit has been used since ancient times and its use was described in writings by the Greek physician Theophrastus in 300 BC and the Roman physician Pliny the Elder(23AD-79AD). Persian philosopher, Avicenna (1025 AD), notes in his ‘Canon of Medicine’ that quince can be used to control abnormal uterine bleeding. A review in 2015 found that this effect was achieved by inhibiting inflammation and counteracting the proliferation of human cervical cancer cells. The Canon of Medicine was an overview of the contemporary medical knowledge, largely influenced by Galen and thus Hippocrates and remained a medical authority for centuries. It set the standards for medicine in Medieval Europe and the Islamic World and was used as a standard medical textbook throughout the 18th century in Europe. It is still used in Unani medicine , a traditional medicine used in India.
Culpepper (1616-1654) advised bald men to mix the silky down of the quince skin with wax and apply to their scalps to encourage hair retention and new hair growth.
The seeds of the quince contain nitriles, like all the Rosaceae family, which are hydrolyzed in the stomach by enzymes and/or stomach acid to produce hydrogen cyanide, a volatile gas, which is toxic, so large quantities of seed should not be ingested. However, used carefully, the seed are very useful in a wide variety of conditions. They are a mild, but reliable, laxative and have astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. When soaked in water, the seed swells to a mucilaginous mass, which has a soothing demulcent when taken internally and can be applied externally to minor burns. In subcontinental Indo-Pakistan, the seeds, known as Bihi Dana, are soaked in water to produce a gel, which is used by herbalists to treat throat and vocal cord inflammation; skin rashes and ulcers and allergies. The stem bark can also be used to treat ulcers. The fruit and juice can be used as a mouth wash or gargle for mouth ulcers gum problems and sore throats. The soaked seeds are used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, especially in children. In Iran and Afghanistan, the boiled seeds are eaten raw for pneumonia. The unripe fruit is very astringent and quince syrup can be used to treat diarrhoea. In Malta, 1 tsp quince jam in 1 cup boiling water relieves intestinal discomfort. The fruit contains pectin, which reduces blood pressure. These are just a few of the medicinal benefits of Cydonia oblonga. For more information, please read : http://www.idosi.org/gv/gv14%284%2915/9.pdf.
The mucilage from the seed coat has even been used as a gum arabic substitute to add more gloss to material, but its greatest claim to fame is in the culinary world, even from Ancient Roman times! Apicius, a ancient Roman cookbook from 4th-5th century BC (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29728/29728-h/29728-h.htm) recommends stewing quinces with honey or combining them with leeks!Cooking:
They can be eaten raw and soft in tropical climates, the best varieties being ‘Aromatnaya’ and ‘Kuganskaya’, but generally they are best cooked before consumption. The fruit will keep for months after picking, scenting the room with its sweet, spicy aroma.
Once peeled, they can be roasted, baked or stewed, the colour of the flesh deepening to a caramel red, the longer the cooking time. They can be poached in wine or water. Their high pectin content make them ideal for making quince jam, quince jelly and quince cheese. Small amounts of quince can enhance the flavour of apple pies and jams. In Italy, they are the main ingredient of a traditional food called mostarda di frutta, in which quince fruit jam is mixed with candied fruit, spices and flavourings to produce regional variations eg: mostarda vicentina; mostarda di Vicenza and mostarda veneta. In Spain, quince flesh is eaten with cheese and in boiled desserts, but their favourite confection is the sweet fragrant jelly-like Dulce de membrillo, which is cut into slices and served with cheese. Portugal also makes a similar dish called marmelada, as do the Balkans, Hungary and Dalmatia. In Albania, Kosovo and Bulgaria, quinces are eaten raw in Winter. Quinces (known as ‘Ftua/ Ftonj) are stewed in a sugar syrup in Albania, while in Kosovo, they makes a quince jam, as does Lebanon and Syria (where the jam is called’ sfarjel’).In Syria, quinces are cooked in pomegranate paste and served with shank meat and kibbels. Morocco uses quince in their lamb tagines, along with other herbs and spices. Quince is also popular with lamb dishes in Armeria, as well as in other savory and sweet dishes.
In Iran, ‘beh’ is eaten raw, stewed, pickled, or made into soups or jam, the leftover syrup saved for use in a refreshing Summer drink with iced water and a few drops of lime juice.With its high malic acid content, quinces are used to make a sweet dessert wine, high in alcohol, as well as liqueurs : Liqueur de coing is a digestif in Alsace, France and the Valais in Switzerland; and sburlone in Parma, Italy; as well as a brandy and liqueur in the Balkans. There is even a Quince cider!So, there is a lot of experimentation to do in my kitchen , when my little Quince tree finally bears fruit!!! Here in Australia, chef Maggie Beer’s name is synonomous with the quince. See: https://www.maggiebeer.com.au/visit-usOn her property, ‘Pheasant Farm’ in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, she planted 350 Smyrna quince trees, which she uses to make her famous Quince Paste, as well as quince wine; quince jelly; quince conserve; quince glaze; quince puree; preserved quinces and pickled quince (see photo above). She also uses them in flat quince tarts; poaches them with pears in verjuice and bakes them, stuffed with walnuts butter and brown sugar or honey. You can read more about her quince adventures by visiting her and reading her books: Maggie’s Farm and Maggie’s Orchard. See: https://www.penguin.com.au/contributors/129/maggie-beer and https://cheznuts.com.au/guest-chef/guest-chef-maggie-beer/.We visited her farm back during our Australian trip in 2008 and I ended up by mistake in her TV kitchen, where I was photographed posing behind her kitchen counter by a visiting tour group! On our heritage rose trip to the Heritage Garden in Clare, South Australia in November 2014, we discovered that our host Walter Duncan was growing a whole orchard of quince trees for Maggie Beer! The quince orchard can be seen in the background of the photo below.CHINESE QUINCE
The final quince that I should touch on is the Chinese Quince Pseudocydonia sinensis, also the sole species in its genus Pseudocydonia. It is closely related to Chaenomeles, but lacks thorns and bears its flowers singly rather than in clusters. It looks superficially like Cydonia oblonga, to which it is also closely related, but its leaves have serrated edges and no fuzz. It is native to China and East Asia, where it is known as ‘mugua’ and ‘mogwa’ in Korea.
Description: It is an attractive deciduous or semi-evergreen tree , 10-18m tall, with a dense twiggy crown and a mottled trunk, which tends to flute with age and exfoliating bark, revealing patches of brown, green, orange and grey. The shiny leathery leaves are simple and alternately arranged and have a serrated margin. They turn a red orange in Autumn. Its single, pink, 2.5-4cm wide, Spring flowers are earlier than Cydonia , but after Chaenomeles. The large, oval pome, 12-17cm long, has 5 carpals and ripens in late Autumn. The fruit is highly aromatic with an intense, sweet smell. It is hard and astringent, but softens and becomes less tart after frost.
Propogation: Chinese quinces are propagated by seed, cuttings, rootings and grafting. As with all the quinces, seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification and should be sown as early in the year as possible.When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. As with the other quinces, fireblight can also be a problem.
The high pectin content of its fruit makes it ideal for jams and chutneys. The wood is used in Japan to make low-end shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument, which is plucked with a plectrum called a bachi and which sounds a bit like an American banjo. Chinese Quince has also been used for years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. Extracts of its phytochemicals have antioxidant and antiviral properties. For more information and a photo of this beautiful tree, please read : http://www.louistheplantgeek.com/a-gardening-journal/1053-pseudocydonia-sinensis.
Unfortunately, I cannot even find a photo, but it certainly sounds worthy of a place in the garden! If only we had the room! Maybe, I shall have to investigate a bonsai version, though I suspect it is all a bit technical for me!
With Autumn colds, exploratory trips of the local area and the demands of general day-to-day life, we have not spent as much time as we would have liked in the garden this month, but the weather has been superb! Hence, the recent excursions to the national parks of the hinterland and the escarpment, before it gets too cold or too snowy!!! We’ve visited Tuross Falls and the Cascades (Wadbilliga National Park); Deua National Park, both covered in last week’s post, and this last weekend, Lake Crackenback Resort, between Jindabyne and Thredbo.Ross has however managed to upkeep the vegetable garden from liming the soil to planting out new vegetable seedlings (sugarloaf cabbage, cauliflower, Winter greens and onions) and sowing spinach and snow pea seed. The capsicum are still productive, but the tomatoes are taking much longer to ripen. We harvested them all today to make Green Tomato Chutney!He has also totally finished the pergola, with all the wiring done as well, so we should be able to train the climbers correctly for next season. We were rewarded with some late blooms of the climbing tea rose Adam.Other roses still throwing out blooms include: Alister Stella Gray; Jude the Obscure and Evelyn; Heritage, Eglantyne and Alnwick; Mrs Herbert Stevens and Lamarque; Icegirl and The Children’s Rose; and Mutabilis and Monsieur Tillier.As you can see from the pergola photos, the Autumn foliage of the Snowball Tree (Viburnum opulus) has been superb from muted golds (south) to fiery reds (north). The Carolina Allspice beneath the snowball tree is also turning, its golden green leaves contrasting well with the red of the latter.At the bottom of the garden, where the poplar and plums are bare, the pomegranate provides a welcome splash of gold. A softer gold carpet is forming under the Floribunda Crab Apple Tree. The maples too vary from an green-orange-red combination to more red-purple-orange hues, depending on the variety. In fact, the whole backdrop to the garden is in its most interesting and colourful phase.The Paris daisies are in full gold regalia in the Moon Bed and attract many butterflies.