Camellias, the Jewels of Winter

 

As snows blow across the northern parts of the country, Camellias begin blooming here October through March, catching the eye like beautiful jewels.

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This gorgeous huge flower is from the Royal Velvet Camellia.  It has had a rough start, as during its second year in the natural part of the yard, deer decided to taste it.  This year the Royal Velvet was able to put out quite a few 5 inch flowers.

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Shi-Shi Gashira is a tough little gal.  These Camellias are planted in full sun and have never disappointed with their abundance of blooms.  The Camellia has been covered in snow, taken heavy rains, drought and recently frozen.  The photo is of a bloom that was in bud during our recent heavy freeze.

dsc_0624Professor Sargent is new to the garden and I am very pleased with it.  The Camellia is covered with blooms up to 3 inches across and the shrub can reach a height of 8 feet.  Camellias are generally very slow growers, so it may be years before it gets that large.

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One of the oldest Camellias in the garden is White By the Gate.  It has been a reliable bloomer over the past 15 years.  This photo was taken against a cloudy sky.  The shrub has been making blooms in triplet. Notice the half open bloom and a bud behind the flower.

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As a test, I sent this photo to some friends to identify it.  They all guessed it was a rose. But no, it is Southern Secret Camellia.

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Southern Secret Camellia is new to the garden this year.  I purchased two of them to replace roses that died, probably due to the increasing shade from the native trees on the property.  Camellias grow well in shade and also enjoy the acidic soil in this area.  Pine needles are their friend.  So many needles drop from the trees, that I often have pick them off of the flowers before I photograph them.

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These Camellias with their 5 inch flowers should be stunning as they grow up to 10 feet tall.   They are planted along the back fence and can be seen from my kitchen window.  These beautiful Camellia jewels brighten the winter months.


Flashback Friday

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Restoring my garden beds from the freeze we had, has taken up all my time these last few weeks.  I realized I haven’t posted very much, so this is a perfect day for a flashback.  I did a series on trees and I thought this post on Bark would be a good addition. Click on “Bark” and hopefully it will inspire you to take a closer look at trees around you.


Self Healing

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I was quite surprised when I took a look at this Sweet Gum tree on my property.  It is close to my neighbor’s line and had a large hole in it.  The hold always seemed to be full of water and dripping liquid.  I was actually concerned it was rotting and worried it could fall on the neighbor’s house.  I had an arborist look at the Sweet Gum and he said it would be fine for now.

Apparently, it was healing itself with all that dripping fluid.  It went from a big hole to completely closed. If only I knew that was happening, I would have documented the healing.

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Another Sweet Gum on the property has a hollow hole and it has not healed itself.  It has provided refuge for opossum mothers and snakes.

The tree’s botanical name is Liquidambar styraciflua.  There was certainly a large quantity of liquid coming out of the wound.  The sap of the Sweet Gum tree can be dried and used for chewing gum. (Do your own research before trying.)  The sap was used for gum flavor into the 1920’s.


The Automatic Garden

Within several days we had freeze and then nearly 6 inches of rain.  The frozen plants turned into a mushy mess.

Just when all seemed hopeless, the Automatic Garden showed its grit.  It wasn’t long before these tough plants started putting up new shoots.  A plant that can take this crazy Gulf Coast weather of drought, floods, and freezes is a keeper!

The plants pictured are a Canna, Hardy Begonia, Russelia and a Salvia. Many more plants have started up from their roots and soon, as the days lengthen and warm, the seeds that were dropped in the autumn will germinate.

 


The Hungry Hummer

 

I recently found a use for the slo-mo option on my cell phone.  I have been watching the honey bees empty out the hummingbird feeders and I thought it would be fun to capture them in slow motion.

I situated myself really close, about 12 inches away.  The bees actually hit me a few times, but I wasn’t worried as they were so hungry and only focused on feeding.

As it turned out, someone else was hungry and the Buff-bellied Hummingbird flew into the shot and fed while I was that close!  Enjoy the video.  It can be enlarged.

Hungry Hummingbird from Automatic Gardener on Vimeo.


Cedar Waxwings

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Timing is everything.  As I was preparing my posts on Holly Trees, the Cedar Waxwings arrived to feast on the berries.  I was alerted of the birds presence by my resident birds.  The Cardinals, Titmice, Chickadees and Carolina Wrens gathered to check out the visitors.  (click to enlarge)

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Luckily, the birds stayed long enough that I could get the camera and switch lenses.  Waxwings fly off at the slightest disturbance.  The photos are highly cropped as it was hard to get very close.

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I was very pleased to get an almost perfect shot of this beautiful Cedar Waxwing.


Ilex vomitoria

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Notice the second part of this tree’s botanical name.  What does that word bring to mind?  Yes, the name comes with a big warning.  If you eat the berries, the result is not pretty.

We know this tree as Yaupon Holly and is another native of the Piney Forest. Yaupons usually have skinny trunks and grow just about anywhere, as between these two pines. Like the American Tree Holly in the previous post, it makes tiny flowers in the spring with the berries forming quickly.  It is a small tree and will spread by root.  Most consider it a weed tree.

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But it has many hidden secrets, besides what happens when humans eat the berries.  Its flowers are a food source for bees.  Cardinals dine on the berries and  flocks of Cedar Waxwings devour them.  Now for humans, we can make tea from the leaves which contain caffeine and antioxidants (make sure you do research before eating it). With a name like vomitoria, I think I will skip the tea!