When you own animals, it’s inevitable that they generally pass away before you do, so it’s important for every garden to have a special cemetery corner. When we first moved to Candelo in 2015, we brought our very old and much loved dog, Scamp, with us to eke out his final days. In fact, my husband had to make a special trip back to Geelong to pick up Scamp and our rose plants after the initial big move!Scampie loved the garden , even though he had limited mobility , and played a big part in its early development, often sitting right on top of a freshly dug hole for a new plant or enjoying the warmth of a pile of fallen Autumn leaves.When he finally died six months later at the ripe old age of almost 16, we buried him in the corner of the flat with a beautiful funeral service, laying him to rest on his favourite old pink blanket, covered with freshly picked blooms from the garden. The flat lies between the old shed (on the right of the first photo below) and the rainforest bank (left edge of the first two photos below), in front of the entrance steps, where he can keep an eye on all our visitors! The bottom photo shows the view of the flat from the house. Since then, Scampie has been joined by a succession of my daughter Caroline’s budgies, all of these pets playing a special part in her growing up years and much loved by the whole family.As you might know, we all love our tea, especially Caroline, so we thought this dedicated area was perfect for a tea garden, somewhere where we could sit and contemplate, chat to our animal friends and remember the good time we shared, so we planted a Camellia sinensis, the original tea plant (second photo below), along with a seat of Chamomile, with an adjoining carpet of Peppermint and Moroccan Spearmint (see photo above), which can run to their heart’s delight in this area, providing us with many future cups of delicious herbal tea. One small pot of peppermint (first photo below) is far too restrictive for my needs!!!When Scampie died, we originally marked his grave site with a native Frangipani tree, one of our favourite rainforest trees back at Dorrigo, where Scamp spent many happy hours. It has beautiful scented golden blooms, fading to white, dark green glossy leaves and interesting purse-shaped seedpods. Having seen huge specimens down in Geelong, we thought it might be able to grow here, but unfortunately, it was cut right back by the frost in the Winter of 2016. We moved it to a pot to recover and planted a new specimen, both plants growing vigorously over the following year, but again, both were hit badly last Winter, unfortunately with fatal results this time! So, I’ve given up on being able to grow native frangipanis, but then had to decide on another tree for the same spot. Below is a photo of Winter Sun daffodils, which we had planted beneath the Native Frangipani – very much in keeping with the gold colour scheme!While the thought of a Lemon-Scented Tea Tree was an attractive option, because space is at such a premium in our small garden, especially these days, it is extra important to get double the value out of any future plantings! So we decided on a golden peach, which not only satisfies aesthetic requirements, but also culinary ones! A friend gave us a whole box of homegrown peaches last year, after which we decided we had to have our own tree! While we love eating peaches, you can also make a delicious herbal tea with cinnamon and orange zest.The colour scheme of this area is very much happy golds and whites, uplifting the spirits and complementing the mature hill banksia behind in its bed of blue and white agapanthus. Above the bank at ninety degrees to the banksia, a red hedge of two grevilleas, a correa and a Red Riding Hood azalea, separates the Tea Garden from the rainforest garden.Other plants near the Tea Garden on the flat include: a Kerria japonica seedling, struck from a cutting in my sister’s garden, which sports bright golden flowers in early Spring. See: https://plantsam.com/kerria-japonica-pleniflora/, as our shrub hasn’t flowered yet!;a Golden Hornet crab apple (photos above), whose crabs turn a deep gold on maturation, underplanted with Golden Dawn daffodils;a naturalised bank of Grandma’s highly scented freesias;an entrance arch (first photo) covered in golden Noisette roses: Alister Stella Grey (second photo) and Rêve d’Or (third photo), which leads through past the cumquat trees (fourth photo) and a Lemonade Tree to the main pergola;and the back wall of the old shed with its wall of Albertine roses, trained on a frame, with their skirt hems covered in brightly coloured dahlias.While celebrating the animal friends in our lives, the Tea Garden is also a good spot to honour family members, who have also passed on, so last year, we planted a beautiful golden rambler called Maigold below the hill banksia for my dad, who passed away at the age of 91 in January 2017. Bred by Kordes in 1953, this exceptionally healthy and vigorous rose, with glossy dark green foliage, is thriving and has already produced a number of golden single blooms.It has been a wonderful season and all the plants in the Tea Garden are growing well, as can be seen in the photos below of chamomile and Moroccan spearmint. From small beginnings…. After an initial slow start with six well-spaced plants, the chamomile has gone wild and is now competing well with the original couch grass. We have been harvesting its bloom all Summer, often picking 450 flowerheads at a time to dry for chamomile tea. I have just chopped back all the flowering stems and cleaned up the bed for Autumn.While I use chamomile tea for relaxation and getting to sleep, it has numerous health benefits, as documented in: https://draxe.com/chamomile-benefits/. We have also cut and dried mint leaves, but are resisting the temptation to harvest the Camellia sinensis until it is much bigger! Below is a photo of my daughter Caroline next to a huge tea plant, taken in 2008 at the Nerada Tea Plantation on the Atherton Tableland. I probably won’t wait this long though!
And a closeup photo of the fresh foliage of Camellia sinensis, which is dried to make tea.I own a lovely book called Healthy Teas: Green, Black, Herbal and Fruit by Tammy Safi 2001, which not only discusses the history, types, methods of brewing and health benefits of tea , but also contains a number of recipes for delicious herbal tonics for energy, stress, cleansing, immunity and springtime. Another good book is Herbal Tea Remedies: Tisanes, Cordials and Tonics for Health and Healing by Jessica Houdret 2001, which specifically focuses on herbal teas with chapters on their cultivation; harvesting, drying and storage and brewing, including tea recipes for digestion; coughs and colds; zest and energy; calm and sleep; headaches, anxiety and depression; tonic teas; and fruit and flower drinks.In the back is a compendium of herbs suitable for a tea garden and I grow many of them in other parts of the garden like angelica, bergamot, black currant, borage, calendula, dandelion, elderflower, feverfew, honeysuckle, lavender, lemon verbena, marshmallow, mulberry, mullein, nasturtium, roses, rosemary, sage, strawberry, thyme, valerian and yarrow. The first group of photos below shows angelica, feverfew, calendula, borage and bergamot; while the second grouping includes rosehips, valerian and thyme, dandelion, honeysuckle and strawberry. I am quite tempted to plant a hibiscus shrub, lemon balm and some more mints, perhaps Eau-de-Cologne Mint, Pennyroyal, Apple Mint and Chocolate Mint, down in the Tea Garden. If you would like to know more about mint, a good little volume is Book of Mint by Jackie French 1993. It describes the different types of mint, their cultivation and harvest/ storage, and their uses in medicine, cosmetics, teas, sauces, sorbets and after dinner mints, complete with recipes!
Next month, we will be exploring the wonderful world of Salvias, but first, a post about Hegarty’s Bay, followed by a swag of books on Textile Printing and Natural Dyeing in my series on Craft Books!
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.