Entries in color in the winter garden (3)


Camellia 'Red Candles' Exceeds My Expectations

The "snow event" that local weathermen forecasted last week did not materialize, but we did experience very cold rain and temps that fell well below freezing for several nights in a row. I imagined that any open camellia flowers would turn to brown mush, though tightly closed buds would survive. I went out to inspect after the weather warmed up and the sun came out. Yep, most blooms were brown mush. The exception was Camellia japonica 'Red Candles,' also sold as 'Crimson Candles.' It has been blooming for a month and the freezing temps did not faze it:

Since I planted it eight years ago, this shrub has never disappointed me. Its abundant, rose-pink blooms are a beacon in the winter woodland garden. 'Red Candles' has bronze-red new foliage, which turns a deep green. The shrub has matured to about 9 by 5 feet and makes an attractive statement year-round.

Whenever I put in a new plant, I am usually optimistic. I do my research and try to put the right plant in the right place. Nevertheless, some plants die dramatically or else limp along till I put them out of their misery. Others succeed for a while, then eventually decline. Many are understated, doing their job but nothing more. Some do well; yet pleased as I am, I eventually take them for granted. But a few, like 'Red Candles,' are outstanding, each year bringing me new joy and wonder. 

Planting and Caring for Camellias:

'Red Candles' will grow in USDA hardiness zones 7a-9b. A few camellias are hardy in zone 6. All grow best in well drained, acid soil under the canopy of deep rooted trees that allow sun to filter through. I dig wide holes for mine and add compost to the native soil before backfilling around the root balls. To encourage good drainage it is important to plant all camellias high, with their trunk bases above the soil line. I water well and then add mulch around the bases to protect the roots. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. To promote good health, keep spent blooms and fallen leaves cleaned from under the shrub. Camellias don't usually need a lot of fertilizer. Wait until blooming has finished in early spring to fertilize with an organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants. 



Early Winter Walk

Autumn has passed. Skeletal remains of leaves are everywhere, lots of crinkly brown shells upon the ground and others still clinging to trees.

I find a single oakleaf hydrangea leaf that still has its fall color. It is the last one, as far as I can see.

I appreciate the Spartan beauty of winter, especially on a pleasantly crisp day with a brilliant blue sky. I walk out on the patio and hear the call of two red tail hawks, soaring high overhead. I breathe in the air and smell the tea olives down in the arbor garden, their blooms tiny and obscure but with a wonderful fragrance that carries on the breeze. I realize this is a perfect day for an early winter walk, so I hurry back inside for my camera.

Back outside, I point my camera at some bright dogwood berries with the cerulean sky above them.

I walk a little farther and take a shot across the front lawn, a view stripped now almost to its essentials. Many dried Japanese maple leaves hold desperately to branches, but other trees are bare: 

Evergreens stand out and provide structure and color to the December garden. Below is a small sampling: Clockwise from top left: Rosemary; Deodar Cedar 'Feelin' Blue'; Japanese Cedar; Cryptomeria japonica.

A group of evergreen Nandina 'Firepower' grows next to the front parking court. These sterile nandinas provide a lot of color through the winter:

Another evergreen with winter interest is Pieris japonica 'Cavatine', laden with buds that will open next spring:

I walk along a path that leads to the arbor garden. I recently planted several Winterberry hollies next to this path. 'Winter Gold' is filled with golden berries that the birds will soon consume:

The bark of a large oak tree catches my attention. Moss highlights the bark's lattice pattern:

Near the oak I spy some acorn shells:

Edgeworthia is a deciduous shrub with wonderful structure, cinnamon-colored bark and outstanding buds that will open in late winter:

Eventually I wander over to the woodland garden, where fallen leaves are thick upon the ground. Lou works hard to keep the paths cleared, but the leaves come quickly behind him. In places the path is nearly obscured. I have been out for a while now, and it is late in the day. Long shadows stretch across the land.

I realize the sun is beginning to go down, and the air is suddenly cold. The days are so much shorter now. I pause to take one last photo, this one of the jasmine arch, lit up for Christmas. The light is just dim enough for the lights to be seen. 

I am content as I enter the house. A walk in the garden always refreshes my spirit, and it has given me unrushed time to reflect upon the Christmas season. Peace to you all!   Deb