March 26, 2010
Earlier this winter, one of my favorite customers called me looking for a type of Camellia called Higo, which she said was the Samurai's Camellia. Even though I like to think I know more than a little about one of my favorite plants, I had not heard of these. Most of my ignorance about Samurais and feudal Japan came from reading James Clavell's Shogun and by watching Akira Kurosawa's Ran. Due to her enthusiasm for the plant I did a bit of reading on the topic and tried unsuccessfully to find a source I could access.
Camellia japonica 'Happy Higo'
Higo Camellias are a group of Camellia japonica cultivars that were indeed bred, selected and cherished by Samurais and their families. They take their name from the old Japanese province of Higo, which is now Kumamoto prefecture. There are several characteristics that distinguish these Camellias from others. The most important being lots of showy, exposed stamens (the more the better) that are arrayed in a sunburst pattern. The Japanese refer to this pattern as ume-jin, with ume from the word for Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume) and its similarly patterned stamens. Jin means soul or spirit, so with Camellias blooming in the cold of winter they came to symbolize the Samurai's bravery. Another important characteristic of Higo Camellias are flat, splayed back petals, few in number, often asymmetric, so as to call more attention to the perfect display of stamens. Another characteristic is the clean drop of spent blossoms. Higos were traditionally planted adjacent to the Samurai's burial place so that the fallen flowers could adorn the grave. As well as being a favored garden plant, they were also used extensively in bonsai.
Camellia japonica bonsai from Wikipedia Commons
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868 the Samurai's role in Japanese society was relegated to the myths of history, and the cultivation of Higos was no longer widespread. Individual varieties did manage to survive behind the gates of old family homes, at monasteries and in graveyards. Unfortunately much of Kumamoto and its Camellias were reduced to ashes in World War II. In the late 1950's the Higo Camellia Society was established in Japan, and they have now listed 120 Higo cultivars, including many rescues and a few more recently developed. I was able to find several on-line sources for Higos, but no wholesale growers. Perhaps that will change; while I was at the Norfolk Botanical Garden last week I saw local Camellia grower Bob Black of Bennetts Creek Nursery admiring the few Higos planted there.
Camellia japonica 'Okan'
If you are interested in learning more about Higo Camellias, the International Camellia Society has an informative page. I used their site and Sterling Macoboy's book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Camellias to get most of my information. For those of you into overkill, I have also recently doubled the number of photos in my Flickr Camellia file.
March 21, 2010
The two almost-rans are below. The first is Camellia japonica 'Lily Pons', again taken at NBG, and the second is Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem' from my back yard.
March 20, 2010
Cornus officinalis - Japanese Cornelian Dogwood
This particular tree is the Virginia state champion.
Corylopsis spicata - Spiked Winterhazel
I loved the shadows cast by the Edgeworthia chrysantha - Rice Paper Plant.
Hermodactylus tuberosus - Snake's Head Iris
I was not familiar with this member of the Iris family and will have to get one for my own garden.
The front entrance of Baker Hall was planted with a beyond cheerful mix of Pansies, Hyacinth and Parsley.
I preferred the color combination from Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' and purple Crocus and will be stealing the idea.
Flowers on deciduous Magnolias are so fleeting, and around here we do not always have a good year for them, but so far, this year looks to be a good one.
Magnolia denudata - Yulan Magnolia
Magnolia stellata - Star Magnolia
Magnolia x soulangiana - Saucer Magnolia
Prunus x incamp 'Okame' - Okame Cherry
This tree was abuzz and vibrating from the hundreds of honey bees on it.
Here are a couple of Camellias, but there may be more in a later post.
Camellia x williamsii 'Pink Dahlia'
Camellia japonica 'Betty Shefield Supreme'
Camellia japonica 'K. O. Hester'
You can see the rest of the set, minus Camellias, here.
March 17, 2010
(all photos were taken from the Library of Congress Flikr site with no known restrictions on publication)
March 15, 2010
For this month's Bloom Day the normal cast of March characters is still missing a few key players and there are several holdovers from previous shows that refuse to leave the stage. But as it is said, the show must go on, and the curtain is rising whether the cast is ready or not.
Edgeworthia chrysantha (Rice Paper Plant)
Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem'
Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaflora'
Camellia x 'Crimson Candles'
Camellia japonica 'Les Marbury'
Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'
Viola Delta Tapestry Series
To see what is on other gardener's stages visit the director of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - Carol at May Dream Gardens.
March 9, 2010
The Chesapeake Bay is ringed with small, picturesque waterfront towns. Many of these places have capitalized on their scenic location, rich histories and close proximity to major population centers to become thriving destinations. Antique filled B&B's, art galleries, coffee shops, sail and kayak rentals and busy restaurants are just some of the attractions in towns full of second homes and weekend getaways.
Saxis, Virginia is not one of these towns.
The town sits on small, narrow Saxis Island and is surrounded on one side by over 5,500 acres of a relatively pristine marsh, laced with small creeks that forms the Saxis Wildlife Management Area. The other side of the island faces the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland at the entrance to Pocomoke Sound. What counts for high ground on Saxis is really no more than a hummock of less wet land and is barely a few feet above sea level. Since suitable land to build on is in short supply, the lots tend to be small and houses are huddled together along the few roads in town.
Originally known as Sykes Island, the town was settled in the late 1600's, and early resident's livelihoods centered around raising cattle. In the 1800's Saxis became an important source for seafood; fish, crab and especially oysters were plentiful, and the town sent its harvest by steamboat to markets along the Eastern Seaboard. Since the collapse of the oyster industry and with low fish hauls, the 300 people on Saxis today make their living on blue crabs, or by supporting people who do. The harbor is ringed with crab houses where the live crustaceans are sold in their shell or held until they molt providing restaurants with the more lucrative, seasonal delicacy of soft shell crabs. Other than the crab houses there is one small store, a volunteer fire station and the Methodist church. It seems the only other industry in town is raising the foundations of its houses in an effort to stay ahead of storm tides and rising sea levels.
(entire set here)
March 7, 2010
The second speaker, Chip Callaway was perhaps my favorite. Although I am not sure why, I have never previously heard of him nor his company, Callaway and Associates. This prolific North Carolina firm has designed nearly 1000 gardens, and one of their specialties is working on historic properties. Mr. Callaway took us through a small part of his portfolio, all the while injecting a serious degree of Southern humor delivered with a rich Carolina accent. My favorite property he showed us was Wharton Hall, which happens to be within walking distance of the house where my great-grandmother, Mammy Nock lived in Assawoman, Va. Even though the houses are very close, they are worlds away from each other. If you are interested, his web site is here, including a gallery of some of his projects.
Pam Baggett was the next speaker and she spoke about using tropical plants in temperate gardens. She was the owner of the sadly now defunct Singing Springs Nursery, which was a mail order nursery in North Carolina specializing in tropical plants. I still have a Euphorbia 'Sticks On Fire' that I got from Singing Springs years ago. Ms. Baggett was promoting her recent book Tropicalismo! and she had some luscious photography to show us. The bright colors and bold textures were welcome distractions on yet another cold day.
The last to speak on Thursday is one of the godfathers of television horticulture, Roger Swain. His topic was "Vegetables for Every Appetite" and I left ready to pull up my shrubs and perennials in favor for something more edible. We were a PBS family growing up and I remember him from The Victory Garden before it changed and changed and changed again. One thing that was not apparent watching the show was just how funny Roger Swain is. He has a great sense of humor, as well as a vast knowledge of all things horticultural.
The day ended with door prizes, some of which I contributed, or at least my company did. I really would like to commend the ladies from the Garden Clubs of Norfolk and Virginia Beach for once again sponsoring a great host of speakers, I don't know how they do it, but am glad they do. For me this event is always a sign that spring is here, and since my first Narcissus (pictured above) began opening the same day, it must be true.