Sunday, January 9, 2011

Anything but chilly

"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.

22 comments:

Randy Emmitt said...

Ginny,
I have seen this camellia in bloom at Duke Gardens on a small bush, very lovely! Thanks for explaining the history on this too!

Southern Lady said...

Lovely post! I do love Camellias. Carla

One said...

Wow! It's beautiful. I wish I could have camelia in my garden too.

sweetbay said...

A Beautiful camellia. Yours are so big too!

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

I love Camellias! I tried to grow them but the voles ate them?! Seeing yours makes me want to try them again.

Jazzie Casas said...

After all of the cold months, most garden lovers are probably ready to start thinking about the coming planting season. The good news is that there are projects that can be done during the winter in preparation for the coming spring.





home and garden design

Alistair said...

I also really like the Camellias. They are hardy in north east scotland, but generally only the Williamsii Donation thrives, flowering profusely in April.

The Whimsical Gardener said...

How nice to watch them develop through the coldest months with such cheer to look forward to!

Barbara said...

Hi Ginny, thanks for visiting my blog. Your camellias are lovely, and I also enjoyed the virtual tour of your garden and your post on birds. In answer to your question: yes, I believe that most people here also overwinter their begonias in the same way as dahlias, i.e. take the tubers out of the earth, cut off most of the foliage, wrap them in paper and keep them cool and completely dry until spring. I've never done it myself, though, so can't be sure.

Daricia said...

ginny, my mother just gave two professor sargent camellias to my husband and me for christmas! i'm so glad to read your post about them and to see how beautiful they can become. i didn't really count on them getting that large - i will have to be careful where i put them, won't i?

Debra said...

Ginny, I'm glad your garden is not secret! Exquisite photos. I love the bloom dusted in snow.

carolynsshadegardens.com said...

Couldn't agree more with the quote from Gertrude Wister, a famous local gardener here in PA. How wonderful to have that gorgeous camellia opening its stunning flowers right now when you need it most. The buds on my fall-blooming camellias are frozen and the spring-bloomers are waiting for hospitable weather. Carolyn

A Year In My Garden said...

This is an interesting post - I like a bit of plant history. I have never been a fan of Camelias but they look different in your pictures to what I have seen over here - where the heads always seem to heavy for their stems and the flowers seem to be past their best alost as soon as they open. Maybe we should dig all ours up and send them to Carolina.

Patty said...

Such beautiful flowers the Camellia. Since I can't grow them I tuck in a few begonias as consolation. I enjoyed the history lesson.

Kathleen said...

Gorgeous camellia. You're so lucky. I dream of living someplace where I can grow camellias someday. I love the quotes at the top of each post too. You also have some wonderful bird visitors to your garden and nice photos of them.
Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving me the nice comment. :-)

scottweberpdx said...

Beautiful post...such a relief in the middle of winter!

Floridagirl said...

I enjoyed this post immensely. Love knowing the history of a plant. I've seen old specimens of Professor Sargent at Bok Sanctuary here in Florida. They are stunning beauties! You are so lucky to have those enormous old specimens. My camellias are just babes still, as I've had them only three years, and they've hardly grown at all in that time. Of course, they bloom like crazy every year.

Appalachian Feet said...

I love that you included a photo of the real Professor Sargent! We have one of these beauties too (our's is also huge) and I never knew the name origin until now. Gorgeous photos!

Meredehuit ♥ said...

If only they would grow in zone 5. Sigh.

debsgarden said...

The history of the Professor Sergent camellia is very interesting. Maybe if the real professor had lived in the Deep South, he would have acquired a little southern hospitality. That he loved nature shows he had a warm heart. I'm sure he would be thrilled to know such a beautiful plant bears his name.

One said...

Hi Ginny, I came looking for flying flowers around lantana. :)

Why not link this post to the meme with May Dreams Garden?

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

I love Camellia and am so glad you posted on them. This post is a pleasure to see in my snowbound garden.