You don’t need supercomputers, weather satellites, Nostradamus, or Jim Cantore to tell you an unprecedented Arctic freeze is on its way. All you have to do is look in my back yard. My camellia is in full bloom. And that means the End Times are near.
Since time immemorial, cherished shrubs and trees seduced into sudden, imprudent winter bloom have always presaged icy disaster. The year’s first daffodils dip in a permanent bow; daphne blossoms sweet as the kiss of Venus turn brown in bud like a tin of little biscuits; quince entices, then sacrifices; forsythia’s sun dims like a candle that’s spent its wax.
Nature giveth. Nature taketh away.
So be quick, Grumpians! Pick blossoms while you can. Capture them in digital files. Let their fragile images race through your optic nerves into the unassailable sanctuary of your brain’s memory center. Good things will not come to those who wait — only shattered expectations and a garden riddled with the corpses of flowers struck down in their prime.
But Hey, the News Ain’t All Bad……
I’m not writing for your newspaper, after all. So I’m glad to report that according to the Mayan Long Count Calendar, you have almost 3 full years until the world (and your garden) comes to an end.(Official Doomsday: December 21, 2012). This leaves you plenty of time to plant and enjoy a camellia bred to endure the cold. And the best source I know to obtain such a plant is Camellia Forest Nursery outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The Park family at Camellia Forest have been collecting, growing, and hybridizing camellias for decades. The last time I checked their website, they listed 240 different camellias. Some are old favorites, like ‘Lady Clare;’ some are weird species you’ve probably never heard of, like Camellia brevistyla and Camellia chrysanthoides; and some are cold-hardy hybrids, like the one shown above. It looks like ‘Winter’s Fire’ to me, but I’ve lost the tag. I’ll gladly welcome suggested ID’s.
Thank You, Global Warming
Cold-hardiness in a camellia isn’t that big a deal anymore in my north-central Alabama garden. Thanks to global warming, camellias grow here with no problem. But it does give people up north who have never grown camellias outside of a cool greenhouse to grow them in a real garden. ‘Winter’s Fire’ is rated hardy to 6A. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s hardier than that. I do know that it’s survived and bloomed here after the temperature dropped to 6 degrees.
The plant blooms early, usually by late January here. Even though a hard freeze may kill a few flowers, it open it flowers over a period of weeks, so I almost always get a good show. I got it as a small plant from Camellia Forest about 6 years ago and planted it at the edge of my woods. It’s now about 8 feet tall and has an upright form with medium-green, lance-shaped leaves that are about 2-1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Once established, it’s very drought-tolerant. During 2007, when we got only 28 inches of rain all year, it came through like a trooper.
Besides camellias, Camellia Forest offers an incredible selection of hard-to-find trees and shrubs from all over the world. They ship excellent, well-packaged plants that are a good value and earn Grumpy’s Vaunted Seal of Approval. So if you have trouble locating non-boring plants where you live, give Camellia Forest a try.
Only you’d best do it before December 21, 2012.