A Rendezvous with Exotic Beauty: Camellia Confessions on a Winter’s Day

January 26th, 2019 § Comments Off on A Rendezvous with Exotic Beauty: Camellia Confessions on a Winter’s Day § permalink

Camellia japonica ‘Tama-no-ura’ in the Camellia Corridor at Lyman Conservatory. My House Favorite.

Camellias are not cold hardy, and although there are a few exceptions (recent introductions claim survivos in USDA zone 6), they are considered zone 7-9 plants. Perhaps that is why these alluring beauties haunt my dreams. Why do we long for that which we can not have? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love to garden in New England, but if I could grow Japanese Camellias, I certainly would! In meantime, there’s always the Camellia Cooridor at Lyman Conservatory, Smith College Botanic Garden.

And so —on a bitter, sub-zero, January day— I bundle myself up and head out for a steamy, glasshouse rendezvous. Camellias come into bloom anytime from mid to late winter (December to March) when grown in glasshouses, or outdoors in warmer climates. At Lyman Conservatory, peak flowering in the Camellia Cooridor begins in January. Opening the side door and slipping inside is like catching the sweet breath of springtime . . .

Powdery, flushed & breathless. Dressed for a glasshouse rendezvous. Camellia x ‘Ballet in Pink’ at Lyman Conservatory

Camellia japonica ‘Monjisu’ in the Camellia Corridor at Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory.

Camellia japonica ‘Rose Pink’, Showing Off My Favorite Form. 

The Camellia is native to Asia. A sign at Smith College Botanic Garden tells me that there are more than 250 wild species growing in sub-tropical regions of China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

Whether grown indoors or out, Camellia japonica (and popular hybrids), prefer semi-shaded positions and well-drained but rich, moist, acidic (pH 5.6-6.5), soil. When grown in pots, Camellias enjoy the same ambient temperature as many citrus trees (a perfect, cool glasshouse companion), with a maximum indoor range around 55F. That’s a little cool for my house, but it’s perfect for a orangerie. Shall we build one? I confess a glasshouse is a long-standing fantasy but it does seem rather extravagant. Perhaps someday. But for now the winter flowering Camellias are one of many great excuses to spend a day in my favorite conservatory. Thank you for a lifetime of pleasure, Smith College.

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Misty Glasshouse Dreaming

April 19th, 2018 § Comments Off on Misty Glasshouse Dreaming § permalink

Favorite Dreary-Day Escape: Seeking Inspiration at Lyman Conservatory, Smith College Botanic Garden, Northampton, MA

Melancholy mornings, moody afternoons and long, rainy weekends; I can think of a hundred-and-one excuses for a trip to Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory. But when spring is this raw and wintry weather so unrelenting, I really crave the warm, humid comfort of a glorious greenhouse.

Fern House Magic: Lyman’s Wardian Case Vignettes Have Long Been a Point of Delight. This Spot Stirs Up My Shade Garden Fantasies  

 With planting season right around the corner —and annual pot displays on my mind— Lyman Conservatory has once again become my favorite place for a bit of tropical design inspiration.  It’s always great fun to play with exotic colors and textures in seasonal planting beds and summertime pots. Where perennials, shrubs and trees are permanent investments —requiring careful planning and placement— annual and tropical plants are temporary, lighthearted guests in our New England landscape. Like summer lovers, they invite us to kick off our shoes and relax a bit. Go ahead, let your hair down they say. Stop taking this gardening business so seriously.

Here’s a look at few more things that recently caught my eye in the greenhouse . . .

Clivia miniata ‘Grandiflora’. What About Orange? Such an Under Utilized Beauty in New England Gardens. People are Often Scared of Committing to Orange. So Try it in a Pot! 

Inspired by a Light and Airy Touch, I’m Thinking Palm Fronds and Swaying Blossoms to Catch the Breeze on My Balcony. Glowing Brazilian Candles (Triplochlamys multiflora, aka Pavonia multiflora, Malvaceae, Brazil), at Lyman Conservatory, Smith College Botanic Garden And What About Those Shady Spots? Ooh, folia, folia. Double fantasia. Begonia brevimirosa ssp. exotica. Always Consider the Leaf! Hot Pink and Fuchsia? Yes, Yes, Yes! 

I can’t wait to get back to Smith Botanic Garden for another color charge!

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Photography copyright Michaela Harlow at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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