Monday, January 16, 2012
I wasn't surprised when I got the call last week from 95-year-old Margaret Moseley. "You ought to see out here," she said. "It's the prettiest it's ever been."
If I had a nickel for every time I've heard these exact words from Margaret, I'd be rich. Here it was, a day before more temperatures in the low 20's were expected, and there was no way I could get out to her house (I have to go through downtown Atlanta to get there; even in the middle of the day, you never know if there'll be a traffic jam) to see the spectacle. Still, I could picture it.
"The Prunus mume is in full bloom, and, and oh, the 'Fragrant Pink' looks like a fountain, and 'Lady Clare' is loaded with flowers. I wish you could see 'White By the Gate.' I've just picked all the blooms so they won't freeze."
I remember when Margaret planted the Prunus mume (I'm thinking she had two and cut one down to make room for something else). It was literally a little stick. It's now a tall tree. Japanese flowering apricot (which does produce fruit that is not edible) blooms pretty reliably in January in the Atlanta area and flowers for a good month or more. Margaret's has light pink blossoms.
If you'll look at the post from June 9, 2011, you can see what Margaret means about her 'Fragrant Pink' hybrid camellia looking like a fountain. This shrub literally covers itself in the loveliest pink flowers that run along the stems. It's a prolific bloomer and seems to have an endless supply of buds.
'Lady Clare' is an antique camellia brought to England from Japan in 1887. It has rose colored flowers with yellow stamens that stick straight out. The leaves are large and dark and exceedingly beautiful, making this a plant that looks good in mid-summer. Its other name is 'Empress'. Margaret has the white form and has issued the following advice for years: "If you see 'White Empress', buy it. You may never see it for sale again. It's hard to find."
'White By the Gate' is in front of Margaret's house. It originated in Louisiana, where I first saw it. The formal double blooms are the purest white. I feel like this shrub doesn't grow as tall as other camellias, but it may be because Margaret keeps hers trimmed back. The camellias in her back yard are like big trees, although she lets the foliage come all the way to the ground.
Now, to the photograph above. I've used this as my computer wallpaper every January and February for three years. I can't remember how I got above the bird house to take the picture. I love the lichens growing on the roof. The camellia, according to Margaret, is 'Governor Mouton', although this 18th century flower usually has white splotches. Apparently, there can be a solid red form, as well. The growth habit is spreading, as compared to the more upright 'Professor Sargeant'. This is a brighter red flower and is a bit larger than the aforementioned.
Margaret didn't say anything about the hellebores, but I'm sure they are blooming, too. She did mention that her daphnes are about to open. I'm hoping to get out there next week and capture some of this beauty. How wonderful to be almost 96 years old and still be so excited about every day in the garden - especially in mid-winter.