The first wave of camellias are beginning to blossom! "Tea camellias" are blooming along the fence on Denning Drive—but they won't be blooming for long! For most, the thought of Camellia brings to mind Camellia japonica, which has large, showy flowers. The cultivar of the tea camellia (Camellia sinensis) blooming along the fence at Mead Garden have smaller, white flowers that barely resemble the more common C. japonica. The plants are small right now, but will eventually form a hedgerow along the Denning Drive fence line.
Camellias were first brought to the west from China in the 1800s. The camellia is the plant from which we get tea, the popular beverage. In the 1800s, tea was an important export of Asia. The European countries that imported tea wanted to obtain the live camellia plants so they could produce their own tea. The story goes that China, in an effort to keep control over the tea industry, initially exported the showier C. japonica, rather than the more economically lucrative C. sinensis. This is why C. japonica is more common in cultivation.
The blossom on the tea camellia is sweet and delicate with a nice, subtle fragrance. They have already begun blooming and are not expected to bloom much longer, so if you are interested in this plant, strike while the iron is hot!