Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Tree Worthy of Janet: Stewartia pseudocamellia

By Gardennia nutii
I lost a gardening friend this past fall; my neighbor Janet who was one of the most wonderful people I've met. She made it a point to look for the positive, live in every moment, and find ways to continue to grow and experience new cultures, ideas, people and plants. We shared a passion for gardening and spent many afternoons sitting outside planning all the fun things we were going to do with our yards. One day while sitting atop a long grass hill, she looked at me and said, "Don't you just want to roll down this hill? What fun that would be!" Janet was in her 80s and I believe common sense won out that day, but she never lost sight of her inner-child and opportunity for adventure.

It's with Janet in mind that I planted Stewartia pseudocamellia yesterday. This tree is a true specimen and offers something for every season: foliage emerges bronzy purple in spring, develops to dark green in summer, and turns bright red-orange in the fall. In midsummer white camellia-like flowers open in random succession and are followed by pointed brown seed pods. And the! Stunning bark exfoliates in strips of orange, gray, and reddish brown. A slow-growing tree for a smaller areas, it reaches approximately 20 feet in 20 years. (It can reach up to 40 feet if given the right growing conditions or can be grown as a multi-stemmed shrub up to 12 feet).

My new stewartia is planted between our driveways, placed so I see it every time I leave, come home, or sit in my front room reading. It will remind me of a lovely lady and how I should live life to the fullest...a reminder that beauty can be attained in every season of life.


  1. Interesting that the loss of someone moved you to get this tree. Several years ago I followed signs to a plant sale that was at a gorgeous home for sale. The older lady living there was selling plants from her garden. There was a small Stewartia in a pot. She wanted to "find it a good home". She seemed earnest & a little sad. I bought that tree & think of this stranger when I look at her tree. I've wondered if the reason for selling her home & possessions had to do with a health problem; a feeling I got when I took the tree from her yard.

  2. What a sweet tribute to your friend. I keep saying I will plant a red rose bush in honor of my mother-in-law, Rose and her husband, my father-in-law, Red. It's time to make it happen. So sorry for your loss. She sounded like a delightful person.