Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Buh-Bye Camellia

So the one inherited foundation shrub that I said was “love at first sight” is also the one to go. I can’t quite believe I made the decision but I have, and it feels right.

As the weather allows I’ve been busy working on the front garden redo (pictures to follow…someday) all the while glancing at the foundation plantings and knowing that something just wasn’t working. Finally I realized I’d been blind to the big sore thumb, the Camellia. Not that it isn’t a perfectly lovely plant! It is! But it’s planted too close to the house, it gets too much sun, but most importantly it’s too darn sweet for the danger garden. So I put an ad on Craigslist, and it’s gone. Just like that. No more cutting Camellia flowers to bring in the house.

Before… After…(it was to the left of the Pieris by the steps, to the right of the window, and in front of the rain gutter downspout) The best part is it went to a good home…a collector from Battle Ground, WA. Evidently its bloom coloration is fairly rare and he’s been looking for one for awhile. This guy and his assistant (who helped us dig the Camellia) have planted almost 100 trees on his property! Here it is, in the back of his truck Buh-Bye Cameliia! So…what will go in its place? I’ve been thinking a lot about this and have come up with three schemes…

1. Plant something slightly forward of the Pieris (the one next to the front door)…then once it has grown a bit the Pieris comes out. Ideally I would like to have three large “shrubs/plants” near the house, not four like we’ve had; our house just isn’t that big! The Pieris would provide height until the new plant has some size to it.

2. Leave the Pieris and plant something with summer interest, like more Canna 'Musifolia' or Musa basjoo that highlight summer but then go away in the winter. Leaving the Pieris to provide winter interest (and winter really is their time to shine). There are currently Canna’s in the front garden so they wouldn’t be completely out of the blue.

3. Do nothing. Oh you know I’ll end up planting something there…probably more than one thing if I start small. Maybe I should just leave it and see what happens over time…(this would be the hardest choice by the way).

If something new is planted the question is what. The (ever changing) criteria presently include: evergreen, interesting flower or fruit, chartreuse leaves, fast growing. Not necessarily all at the same time of course. I am having real difficulty coming up with something that has chartreuse leaves and is evergreen. My current list of possibilities looks like this:

Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' a smaller version of the Strawberry tree. It’s evergreen (a definite plus) and of course has those fabulous red fruits. On the other hand its flowers and leaves look a lot like the Pieris. Not a bad thing...but maybe too similar? Ceanothus ‘dark star’ I love these! Tiny crinkled evergreen leaves, amazing dark blue flowers, fast grower. But our house will be dark after we paint it chocolate; too much dark and this one would just disappear? Thinking about something bright that would really jump against the chocolate paint behind it I started thinking about a lime green Sambucus (Elderberry) or Cotinus. Downside being that both of these are deciduous. Speaking of deciduous how about a Cutleaf Sumac? Gorgeous color…but these sucker really bad right? In moment of zonal denial I thought of the perfect plant! An Eriobotrya japonica or Loquat, but this would be a real risky choice. There are several beautiful specimens growing nearby, like this one in front of a neighbor’s house. But they all are in fairly protected areas and our front garden is definitely not protected. Then in a moment of complete craziness I thought of a Paulownia tomentosa or Catalpa (because I’m not sure what the difference is between the two), and coppicing it regularly to get those cool big leaves and keep the overall plant size in check. But then I do keep coming back to the idea of the Cannna or Banana. Here is where I ask….what would you do? What plant suggestions do you have? There must be a million cool plants I’m not thinking of. Please share your ideas!

I leave you with a small bouquet of Pieris japonica branches that were accidently broken in the Camellia dig…they smell so good!


  1. is your zone able to support jacaranda mimosifolia? I think they can stand mild frosts
    not really "dangerous" but a unique tree with interesting blooms, nonetheless

  2. The first thing I thought of was a plant you mentioned! If it were me, I would go with the (admittedly, not very "dangerous") 'Sutherland Gold' Sambucus...delicate-looking but really tough (can be coppiced to control size)...and the chartreuse would look smashing against the dark house color. I've seen too many houses with dark paint and dark plantings...it all but disappears into a monotone mish-mash. Contrast is where it's at! I have one of the cutleaf Sumacs ('Tiger Eyes'), which is lovely (though slow as the devil to get established) and suckering is always a concern with them...but it's smaller size and stunning color won me over in spite of my reservations. I can't wait to see what you choose, no matter what, I'm sure you'll pick something great.

  3. Have you thought about Trachycarpus fortunei? I can't recall if I've seen this in your garden. I have the particular Arbutus you're thinking about and it is a great plant but drops its older leaves during the summer months. Annoying! I'm really glad your camellia found such a great home. I look forward to seeing what you decide.

  4. Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' or Loquat or Ceanothus ‘dark star’ with Ceanothus being my first choice for the spot, nice contrast with the house and surrounding plants. I bet the white blooms on the Pieris will look good next to the dark foliage.

  5. Absolutely the right thing to do, especially since you found a loving home for the wayward camellia. I'm wondering if the house even needs heavy foundation shrubs or if it could go grassy and spiky here, with some laterally spreading ceanothus rather than upright chunky stuff. Should be loads of fun deciding!

  6. love that ceanothus - it may blend it, until it pops with the purple and then the effect would be so cool

  7. oops, I missed the note about the new paint color and the Ceanothus! I'm with Scott on the vote for Sambucus.

  8. Such a great solution, to give the camellia away - I love the green-ness of it!

    How about a different ceanothus with lighter green foliage? I love 'Dark Star', but it does have the deepest green leaves of all the ceanothus I have seen. You'd still get the blue blossoms in spring but there'd be more foliage contrast and any ceanothus blossoms would look fab with your new paint scheme.

    Another idea is a eucalyptus: the gray green foliage would also look wonderful with your new body color and set off the manzanitas you have in the front. Of course most are really trees, but I think there are some shrubby ones or that take pruning well. Though most have no discernable flower/fruit interest, really. Okay, strike that idea.

    Whatever you decide, I know we can rely on you to update us!

  9. No suggestions here, as I can't get past the fact you removed a camellia.

  10. Bold move! I'm just about to do the same with my Rhodys.
    Shame we can't grow those giant Phormiums , that would look very dangerous.
    I've just got Actostaphylos'st helens' as my replacement.

  11. ellie T, oh I LOVE the Jacaranda's but no, they are a bit to tender and besides they get BIG!

    scott, thank you for the reassurance...great minds eh? I guess I should just be happy that our cool neighbors planted a Tiger Eyes and admire theirs.

    Grace, thank you! It's just this sort of information (on the Arbutus) that I was hoping to get. As for the Trachycarpus I do love them, and we've got one in the back garden but I'm just not sure that's what I want for the front. Well, unless we managed to find a 6ft tall one...

    Ryan, yes! To all...but I especially like your follow up comment. And my thoughts exactly on the Pieris. The one thing I've always hated is how the white house makes the blooms looked dirty when really they are very clear. All that will change with the brown paint.

    Denise, thank you! Love your comment. My only hangup with grasses is I hate cutting them back in the winter. Such a pain in the you know what.

    Anon, yep...agreed.

    MulchMaid, would you think it was less green if I told you we didn't just give it away? We made a very small sum (small..like a 2 gallon replacement $). I just know that when something is "free" it's not as valuable as when it has a price...even if it's a cheap price. So...please, name a couple of lighter leaved Ceanothus...except Ceonothus Impress ‘Victoria," I'm not so fond of that one (although I do have one). As for the Eucalyptus...oh how I would LOVE to go there...but the husband, not so much.

    Les, I knew I was bound to offend someone. Please don't hate me!

    Linda, funny you should say that. I was just remembering my biggest Phormium clump pre-2008 winter and thinking how perfect it would be. If only. Anyway...kudos to you! Can't wait to see pics of your replacement.

  12. I'm thinking you'd like Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies'. It made great plant picks. Pretty sure you took a picture of it @ Chapel Pub. Good job finding a good home for the camellia and making space for a plant you love! Lucinda

  13. Clumping bamboo!

    I am mourning your camellia though.

  14. Lucinda, uhm....you're right I would! I'm not sure it would love me though, at least not in that spot as I think it might be a little too sunny. That doesn't mean I can't plant it somewhere else though.

    Jean, a yes! I wondered why nobody had mentioned bamboo...thank you! Actually this is really tempting...

  15. Do you know Cryptomeria japonica Sekkan Sugi? Chartreuse? Check. Evergreen? Check. Slow growing? Check. It also has wonderful texture and would look great against your dark house year-round.
    We're an opinionated bunch.

  16. That is a stunning camellia, i would have found a better spot in the yard and moved it. I might be doing a deck job where there are 4 camellias twice as big as that and would need to be moved.

  17. I haven't read the responses so this could have been suggested but what about bamboos?

    Clumping and not so tall types would look good there (Fargesias and Borindas spring to mind). Fargesia angustissima, although gets tall is incredibly tightly compact, might be great for that spot.

    Daphniphyllum is another good tree/tall shrub for that spot. Fatsia polycarpa looks nice :)

  18. How nice that it went to a "collector"!

  19. I bet it felt good to get rid of that tree, and that it went to someone else who wanted to take it for a spin. Matti


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