Camellias come to us from eastern Asia, especially Japan and China. Featuring showy and elegant blooms in white, pink, red or yellow, these trees and shrubs are attractive standing alone or planted en masse as a hedge. They can also be used for topiary and espalier.
If you drink tea, you may have tasted the leaves of Camellia sinensis. However, you don’t just pick tea leaves and add water. Tea goes through many distinct stages of processing between harvest and infusion.
Camellia flowers come in many forms, from “single” to “formal double.” To see the wide array of shapes and hues, visit the camellia grove in March, April and October to catch a wide range of speciens and cultivars in full bloom. Cultivars of note include Camellia sasanqua ‘Tago-no-tsuki’, C. ‘Showa-wabisuke’ and C. pitardii var. yunnanica.
Another prominent member of the Theaceae or the tea family in the Arboretum is Stewartia. The Arboretum has impressive specimens of 8 species of stewartia, with many examples of mature Stewartia monadelpha, and Japanese stewartia, S. pseudocamellia highlighting the collection. If you are looking for a tree that provides color and interest year round, try a Japanese stewartia. This tree’s bark exfoliates in strips of gray, orange, and reddish brown once the trunk is a few inches wide. Its serrated foliage emerges bronzy purple in spring, deepens into a dark green by summer and turns red or orange in autumn. White camellia-like flowers burst forth in midsummer, and brown seed pods follow in the fall. Clearly, the camellia family garden is worth a visit any time of year!