"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts
well out of proportion to their size."
- Gertrude S. Wister
The buds begin forming on the Camellia japonica 'Professor Sargent' in my garden around Thanksgiving. The first blooms appear in early January and by mid-March the shrubs are covered in blooms.
There are two well-established Professor Sargent camellias in my garden. They had grown to the size of small trees before I moved in, and they now tower above the fence, reaching to the second floor windows. In the photos below, taken today, a single bloom stands out, though there are many just beginning to open.
Camellias are native to China and Japan but are considered Southern Heritage Plants. The Professor Sargent Camellia is named for Charles Sprague Sargent, the first director of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.
According to Wikipedia, "under his direction his family estate became a landscape without flower beds or geometric arrangements, but rather a recreation of nature with winding lanes, overhanging branches, and a profusion of trees and shrubbery." Though considered "notoriously chilly" when it came to human interaction, Professor Sargent seems to have had a much warmer relationship with nature. It does seem strange to me, though, that this Southern heritage plant would be named for a chilly man from Boston.
The blooms are anything but chilly even when dusted with snow.
The Professor Sargent Camellia is hardy in zones 7-9, prefers acidic and well-drained soil. It's drought tolerant once established and benefits from some protection from cold wind and hot sun.
If you're a newcomer to my blog you may be interested in this virtual tour of my garden in bloom.