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.


Bees, Butterflies and Hummingbirds

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Our record breaking Christmas heatwave has encouraged flora and fauna to emerge from their winter rests.  The bees are finishing off a feeder a day.

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Butterflies are feasting on the last of the summer flowers.

Caterpillar eggs are hatching and thankfully the Passion Flower has replenished its leaves for the babies.

Azaleas that are supposed to bloom in March are beginning to open.  A Gardenia has also popped out.

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The Buff-bellied hummingbird is still hanging out in the yard, but is now also using the feeder as the flowers dwindle.  The weather forecast is showing temperatures dropping down to our normal “warm” winter weather with no freezes for awhile.

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My post Christmas plans are to clean out some beds and plant winter annuals while the weather is nice.


Seeking Heat

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A Norther blew in and the temperatures dropped into the 30F’s.  I was surprised to see this very fat Skink sunning itself in the corner of the garage. They are usually not seen this time of year.

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A Buff-bellied  hummingbird appeared in the garden just after Thanksgiving.  The bird was not enjoying the cold and the chill slowed down the very active hummer long enough to snap a photo through the kitchen window.

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The Buff-bellied is about 4 inches in length, which makes it a big hummingbird in this area.  It has beautiful dark green and buff feathers when lit by the sun.  Enlarge the photos see the colors better.  The last time one visited the garden was the summer of Hurricane Ike.  The small bird rode out the storm and was feeding the next day.

But never mind about the weather as they say down here, just wait a minute and it will change.  The wind has shifted and is blowing  from the Gulf bringing the temperature up 30F degrees and summer will be here later in the week as the mercury hits 76F.


Snakes in Gardens

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For some reason I am seeing Copperhead Snakes everywhere.  Usually, they are around mostly in the Spring, but there seems to be a new brood of snakelets this Fall.  The first photo, taken on September 10th, is a medium sized one, probably a juvenile.  I was cleaning out a bed when I spotted it.

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While volunteering at our botanical garden on the 13th, I was pulling weeds around this baby Copperhead that was molting.

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On September 19th, this big snake was exploring outside my kitchen window.

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It caught my eye because the rabbit was also in the same bed and was acting strangely.  The only predators for Copperheads are the occasional hawk and  humans.  But I swear I saw a rabbit kill a Copperhead once, the rabbit had blood on it and the snake was dead.

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This was an interesting situation and I watched it play out while safely inside taking  photos through the window. The rabbit took a non aggressive stance and kept an eye on the snake until it moved on.  When all was clear, the rabbit went back to its favorite napping spot under the Camellias.

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Two days later, I spotted a little head from the other side of a flower pot, but it turned out to be a rather large Five-lined Skink.