We planted three camellias last weekend, in the spots at the front of the house recently inhabited by three deceased azaleas.
When faced with the quandary of what to plant in the open spaces, I should have called my mother. She understands roots and soil and foliage and drainage and all of those important variables. But it was late last evening when I was planning, so I turned to Google instead. It suggested laurels as a good fit for north Georgia.
So I headed for the nursery this morning, intending to find some laurels or task an attendant for advice. Instead, I came across several rows of camellias. When we were growing up in the old white farmhouse with the tin roof at 20 Miller Road in Virginia, there was a massive camellia scaling the side of the house, rollicking out into the lawn. Maybe it was actually several bushes. A cat could disappear inside the brush for days. And dark shiny green tentacles would reach out to grab you as you skipped up the narrow bit of paved walk, barefoot, trying to avoid the shimmery slug trails.
I purchased two small autumn blooming camellias with fat buds and a larger winter flowering plant. They’re now in the ground, roots swaddled in the kind of nice, dark composted earth that, were I my mother or sister, I would have had on hand already. Mine came in a plastic bag. (Note to self: now that you have a backyard, start a compost pile.) It’s the kind of earth that I took a big bite of in the garden when I was five or six, because it looked so rich and tasty. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly what the sensory effect was. But I do recall that a few months later, when we were handed cups with “dirt” in them at a birthday party, I was rather disappointed to discover that it was chocolate cake rather than the real earthy deal.
Somehow, 18 years of enforced service in the garden have faded into the mists of my brain. The weeds ripped from the earth, the knocking off of potato bugs (those were lucrative: a penny a bug), the vast numbers of beans picked, the branches hauled to the brush pile, the mulch shoveled and laid, the chopped wood transported to the shed, the corn shucked, the mounds of apples poured into the victoria strainer to be transformed into applesauce, the whens and whys and wherefores of planting and watering…at 31, I’m starting from scratch.
Scratch being what Nina did to bush #1 as soon as it was in the ground. I believe she also sat on it. So far, though, it appears to be a hardy camellia, immune to the imprecations of a dog drunk on the joie de vivre of an autumn day.