Greetings from Wilmington, NC

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

After what always seems like an eternity (in other words, getting through January), I made it down here to Steve’s in Wilmington.  I’ve been here a week and, already, I feel the relaxation and calm streaming into my body and the stress and tension slowly draining out.  The air is not all that much warmer down here–though I don’t sense the chill that emanates from the ground in Arlington at this time of year–yet the sun is much, much brighter, warmer, and intense.  It’s done wonders for my outlook!

We’ve had lots of rain.  That’s a good thing since there have been many years of drought and heat down here and the soil is practically all sand.  Great for digging (compared to the rocky clay in Arlington); not so great for holding moisture or nutrients.

With the rain and warmer sun, the plants are responding with bloom.

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

One of Wilmington’s crown jewels is the annual Azalea Festival.  This year, it’s happening April 10th-14th.  The entire town is filled with blooming Azaleas, gorgeous gardens (there’s a big fundraising tour) and glamorous belles–yes, in hoop skirts.  I was asked to write an article on a couple of the featured gardens for the April issue of Wrightsville Beach Magazine. Today, I met my charming contact and she took me by two of the gardens.  They are all that and some change, and I can’t wait for you to see them…but for that you’ll have to wait.  Meantime, I did snap some close-ups of flowers in these two gardens, and I’m sharing those here.

Camellias...

Camellias...

Forsythia...

Forsythia...

Variegated Winter Daphne

Variegated Winter Daphne...

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

Tomorrow, we are heading South for a week in the Low Country:  Charleston and Beaufort, SC, and Savannah, GA.  We can’t wait to get to our beloved Low Country and savor the gardens, history, architecture, and surprises along the way.  We want to explore the Sea Islands and see as many plantations and gardens as we can.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Posted under Fragrance in the garden, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel

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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