Friday, February 1, 2013

Flower Power--Camellias

With winter warming into spring I needed to forget the black plastic covering my front yard, so I went someplace else to find beauty. Namely, my back yard.

Currently our evergreen Camellia japonica plant is blooming and not just a flower here or there but explosions of blooms like a Bicentennial fireworks display on the Fourth of July.  Our camellia is the “Debutante” variety whose pink flower resembles the shape and petal display of a peony. Camellias are called the “rose of winter” because in mild southern climates--like the beach, the desert or my back yard--they bloom from October to February.  Ours has been pumping out pink blooms since before Halloween.

Originally camellias came from eastern and southern China where they have been cultivated for thousands of years and are recognized as the flower of the Chinese New Year--and fireworks. Ah-ha! There's a theme here! I've read that in Chinese culture the white camellia represents loveliness and the red camellia represents wealth. I have a pink camellia, which I guess means it’s sort of okay to look at and smack dab in the middle class.

Doing some research in the Sunset Western Garden Book I discovered that the Camellia japonica growing in my backyard is a Japanese species that was found in the Philippines in the 17th century and came to the U.S. in the early 20th century. The "Debutante" variety was developed by Gustav Gerbing's Nursery on Amelia Island, Florida. His friends called him "Gus".

The woman who built our house was coo-coo for camellias and planted several varieties including this Debutante. At 10 feet tall the Debutante is by far the tallest, oldest and most beautiful of the camellias we have.

Looking at it makes me forget... uh... whatever it was I wanted to forget.