Spring Continues to Dazzle

As in all gardens, each Spring day brings something new.  Here at Woodland Cottage, we are passing from early to mid-Spring.  Soon, we’ll be in what I like to call “full Spring”–when the Azaleas and Dogwoods are really kicking.  It occurs usually when the mid-season Azaleas come into bloom.  That will be soon.

We landscape designers have been hopping double-time this Spring!  I haven’t had much time to sit down and write to you–I apologize.  I hope these photos will make amends for my slacking off!

Happy the Buddha is glad it's Spring!

Happy the Buddha is glad it's Spring!

Epimedium rubrum next to the waterfall

Epimedium rubrum next to the waterfall

I love the new growth on Fatsia japonica.  I have several.

I love the new growth on Fatsia japonica. I have several.

This is my favorite Camellia japonica.  I’m not sure of the variety.  Does anyone know?  It is one of my latest blooming varieties…just finishing up now.

Camellia japonica, unknown variety

Camellia japonica, unknown variety

An old-fashioned favorite, Calycanthus floridus, is a native here.  I call it Sweetshrub; some call it Carolina Allspice.  My dear friend, Catherine, has it encircling her screened porch–heaven.  She calls it Spicebush.  Here it is, the dark brown/maroon flower in the foreground.  It has a sharp, spicy scent.

Calycanthus floridus, foreground

Calycanthus floridus, foreground

Chinese Snowball, Viburnum macrocephalum, just coming into bloom.

Chinese Snowball, Viburnum macrocephalum, just coming into bloom.

I have an unknown Variegated Pieris, Pieris japonica, with spectacular red growth in the Spring.  It fades to the variegated, green leaves over time.  With a background of Bloodgood Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, the pair is a real show-stopper.

Wow! Variegated Pieris, foreground, with Japanese Bloodgood Maple in the background.

Wow! Variegated Pieris, foreground, with Bloodgood Japanese Maple in the background.

Spring bursts forth on the back hillside...

Spring bursts forth on the back hillside...

...as Ralph, my wise old gnome, oversees it all with happiness.

...as Ralph, my wise old gnome, oversees it all with happiness.

Posted under Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden

Kinda Pretty Here in Arlington Right Now

Beautiful week one is now running into beautiful week two here at Woodland Cottage.  It’s astounding.  I’ll let the pics speak.

Camellia japonica

Camellia japonica

The same Camellia, looking out through the dining room windows...

The same Camellia, looking out through the dining room windows...

The Loropetalum has never been more floriferous…

Loropetalum chinense 'Zhuzhou'

Loropetalum chinense 'Zhuzhou'

Heavenly scent…

Variegated Daphne

Variegated Daphne

Pieris japonica

Pieris japonica

Vinca minor

Vinca minor

Corydalis

Corydalis

Edgeworthia papyrifera (against an English Boxwood)

Edgeworthia papyrifera (against an English Boxwood)

A beloved, late-blooming pink Camellia japonica

A beloved, late-blooming pink Camellia japonica

Posted under Climate Change, Fragrance in the garden, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden

It’s a Japonica Kind of Day

JaponicaCamellia.  Some say it like this:  Kuh-MAYL-yuh.  Here in the South, “Japonica” is a catch-all term for so many plants:  Winter/Spring-blooming Camellias, Pieris…any plant whose species name is japonica is fair game down here.  Whatever you call them, they’re all the same and they’re all Camellias.

I just took a turn around my woodland garden, and the early Camellia japonicas are blooming away.  Of the varieties I have, these aren’t my favorites (those will bloom later); yet any flower at this time of year is welcome, both indoors and out.  Indoors, I love to float them in shallow dishes.  I have my eye out always for vessels in which I can float Camellias.

Camellia dishes/bowls are an old stand-by, Southern style.  Actually, I got this flat dish in Murano, the island off Venice where the beautiful Venetian glass is made.  It’s perfect for floating Camellias.  I bought it for this use.  This one will hold several blossoms:

Here’s an old one I got at the gift shop of the Mercer House in Savannah, GA.  Steve and I get down there several times a year–we love it–and a stop at the Mercer House shop is a must.  (Remember the book/movie, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’?  This is the house of Jim Williams.  Check it out here).  A clue that it’s a Camellia dish, and not a cigarette ashtray (though, yes, you could use it as an ashtray), is that it doesn’t have the notches in the rim where you’d rest a cigarette.  I love the cut glass and gold rim:

Many Camellia dishes are passed down through Southern families.  Many shallow dishes did double duty as condiment dishes and Camellia dishes, like these, which were passed down to me by my maternal grandmother, “Miss Lill”:

Sometimes, a Camellia may be blooming at the tip of a branch and have tight buds adjacent.  Every bud means a precious flower, so I’ve found that twisting off the flower, carefully, is the best way to pick them.  Just plop them in a shallow dish, Camellia or otherwise, face up, and there you have it.  They last many days in my house–probably because I’m cheap and keep the house so cool!

What a Winter!  To be able to walk around the yard daily–in JANUARY–and see what’s happening (because, yes, it is changing daily–hard to believe) is a treat beyond treats.  Good for the soul and what ails you.  The days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer, too, here in the magical Mid-Atlantic.

I never thought I’d ever say this, and I may never say it again–and it may be a first:  Just for now, I’m loving Winter.  How about you?  Do you have any Camellia traditions?

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Flowers in the House, The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 28, 2012

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It’s the Beginning of Camellia Time

I love Camellias.  I’d be happy if my entire yard was full of them.  But then, of course, there would be nothing in bloom from June to October.  Still, they give a lot of bang for the buck.  They are green the year ’round.  The flowers are the size of Rose blooms, single and double.  And they come in many shades of red, pink and white.

Here in the D.C. area, on the cusp of growing zones 6, 7 & 8, we are at about the Northern limit of what is known as ‘Camellia Country’.  This is changing for the better–The U.S. National Arboretum has been introducing some more cold-hardy hybrids that will supposedly live into zone 6 (I’ve been growing a hardier hybrid Fall-bloomer called ‘Winter Snow’–a white double–and I like it).  Most of the Camellias known and loved by several generations (since they were brought to Magnolia Plantation near Charleston, SC, a few hundred years ago) are only hardy to zones 7 and higher.

The Fall bloomers are just beginning to bloom here in the D.C. area.  These are the Sasanquas (Suh-SANK-wuh), Camellia sasanqua. My favorites, and the varieties I use all the time, are ‘Setsugekka’, a single white with a yellow center; and ‘Kanjiro’, with double blooms of bright pink.  They both bloom on the early end of the Fall-blooming Camellia season.

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka'

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka'

The Spring-blooming Camellias, Camellia japonica, can start blooming anytime after the new year, depending on the Winter.  Down South, they bloom the Winter through.  Here in the D.C. area, I begin to see them in March, usually.

Camellia japonica.  I think this one is 'Greensboro Red', though I can't swear to it.

Camellia japonica. I think this one is 'Greensboro Red', though I can't swear to it.

The earlier-blooming Japonicas can be burned by frosts or freezes (as can the later blooming Sasanquas).  For this reason, in the D.C. area, I like to plant early-flowering Sasanquas and late-flowering Japonicas.  The flowers on my Camellias rarely see the effects of the cold.

Camellias have shallow roots and don’t like to sit in an area that stays wet, so good drainage is a must.  Part-shade is perfect, out of the howling Northwest winds of Winter.  It is said that Sasanquas will tolerate more sun than Japonicas–I agree.  And they need space…they can get very tall and wide, depending on the variety (there are thousands, I’m guessing).  Spring is the best time to plant, so they have plenty of time to root before the next Winter.  If you insist on planting this Fall, get crackin’–the Fall planting window is about to close here in the Upper South/Mid-Atlantic.

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under The Fall Garden, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on October 12, 2011

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Appearances Ain’t Everything

It sure looks like Spring out there–if you’re looking at the plants, that is.  The weather is still cloudy, damp and cold here in the DC area.  But tomorrow may be sunny and in the mid-80s, so I’ll take it.

Here are a couple of shots of my front garden, taken Thursday evening.

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Camellia japonica...on steroids this year, I think!

Camellia japonica...on steroids this year, I think!

Posted under Spring Flowers

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 10, 2011

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Camellia Time!

What a glorious, glorious day we had today here in Northern Virginia. Upper 70s, not a cloud in the sky. The camellias are popping into bloom and they are really stunning this year…just full of flowers. Granted, a lot of the branches are hanging down as a result of the heavy snows this winter, but I will do some pruning after they finish blooming.

Camellia japonica

Camellia japonica

Spring-blooming Camellias, Camellia japonica, like a little bit of shade from hot, midday sun, but on the other hand won’t bloom if the shade is too dense. Here where I live, they are best grown in an eastern or northern exposure so they don’t get sunburn in the winter. Camellias are shallow-rooted. Plant them an inch or two higher than the natural grade of the ground in nice, rich soil that drains well. They do not like wet feet. A light mulch is beneficial. They are surprisingly drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow once established.

I’ve been thinking today about a few years ago when my best friend from growing up, Jeff, and his family visited on this date. It was a carbon copy of today. Stunning. They had a grand week…seeing the cherry blossoms, monuments in DC, family and friends. Then…BAM! It turned COLD and SNOWED–yes, SNOWED! Everything was blooming and got covered with snow.

Camellias in the April snow, 2007

Camellias in the April snow

It didn’t last long, and melted quickly, but what a bummer! Just a reminder that it ain’t over ’til it’s over…the frost dates are there for a reason, and it is prudent not to plant tender things or put your houseplants out until after the average last frost date. If you do, you could get burned…and so could your plants!

Posted under Spring Flowers

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 1, 2010

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