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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights

Camellias! As hardy as I could find.
I blame the writer Eudora Welty for my recent purchase of camellias (Camellia japonica) for my garden.

A while back, I read Tell About Night Flowers: Eudora Welty's Gardening Letters, 1940-1949, edited by Julia Eichelberger). In nearly every letter to her publisher, Welty mentions her camellias.

I knew as I read the letters that camellias are not hardy enough for my garden.  But oh how Welty went on and on, letter after letter, about those camellias. They really must be something special when they bloom.

I was gritting my teeth with envy.

Then I did some more research and found out that some gardeners are growing camellias in a climate similar to mine.  Perhaps I should try?  Why not try?  What is there to lose, but a little time and money?

What is there to gain? A few beautiful blooms? A reason to boast?  Why not?

I pondered it all. For over a year I thought about it, and then I decided late last summer to clear out a spot on the north side of the sunroom for The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights.  Yes, the advice is to plant camellias on the north side of the house so they don't bud out too soon in the spring.

I ordered the camellias several months ago for spring planting.  They arrived today and I'm pleased to report I've already planted them.

The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights

I realize the picture of the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights is a little underwhelming.  But imagine it in a few years if the camellias make it through a couple of winters. What a sight to behold it will be.  It will then surely be a Garden of Southern Delights.

Or if you prefer, and your glass is half empty or you are a skeptic or  you don't like singing birds, sweet little kittens or happy frolicking puppies, imagine me planting something else there in a few years, muttering about the Garden of Southern Follies.

I am, of course, imaging it as the Garden of Southern Delights.  I always plant with optimism.  And now I'm also thinking about Crinums, thanks to the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence.  Criminy. Crinums.

Some will think I've lost my mind.  Others?  Well, I can just imagine a group of old gardeners sitting on a porch on a hot summer's night, sipping sweet tea. A fan turns slowly overhead as they sit and rock back and forth, fanning themselves with the kind of fans that funeral homes used to hand out, with their name printed on them for advertising.  All is quiet except for the occasional chirp of a cricket and the soft squeaking as the chairs rock back and forth on the wooden porch floor.

"Oh, my sakes, do you remember when that foolish gardener, what was her name, tried to grow camellias up north in Indiana?"

"I sure do."

"Did they live?"

"Why I don't remember if they lived. I just know she tried and I think that's what's most important.  She tried."

"I agree with that. She tried. But, I do wonder how they did..."


7 comments:

Layanee said...

I was thinking about this very topic of 'pushing the zone limits' just as I woke this morning. It is in the nature of the gardener to do so, I think. Good for you. I applaud that. I have always coveted the large leaf gunnera but I have not yet tried to grow it. Perhaps this year!

Lisa Greenbow said...

A gardener here planted some of them. I am not sure how they have fared. It will be an interesting experiment.

Bravo to you. One must try or you will forever be wondering. Pass me another glass of that sweet tea.

Christopher C. NC said...

It just so happens I know of a crinum that not only grows, but blooms in these parts. I think the garden has been abandoned.

Helen Malandrakis said...

Pushing the limits is a great idea! Good for you, Carol!

johnsviccellio said...

Good luck with your camellia. You may want to look at Camellia Forest nursery in Chapel Hill, NC. They have developed some cold hardy camellias and there may be one for you.

Stepheny Houghtlin said...

I'm proud of you for giving it a go. I can guarantee you that in my North Carolina garden, these beautiful shrubs are worth every effort and prayer if necessary. Patience while your plants settle in.

ProfessorRoush said...

If global warming must come, at least we will have camellias, right Carol? My current zone stretches are magnolias and crape myrtles; both not reliably hardy in my garden.