Life Gardens

Sunday 19 November 2017

Inspired planting... soothing camellia

Discovering that the plant that is quite literally everyone's cup of tea!

Camelia blossom
Camelia blossom

Leonie Cornelius

The Camellia plant is a truly fascinating one. One of the most rewarding in winter, its glossy, evergreen foliage gives great garden structure, while in spring it gives a stunning floral display. The Camellia Japonica (Desire), which I sourced at, is one of my favourite varieties, with semi-double flowers with a soft hue of pink around the edges of the petals.

Camellias are native to Asia and grow at high altitudes of around 300-1,100m. The plants like slightly acidic soil and are most fond of partial shade, but most do well in sunshine too.

Most people don't realise these beautiful plants are the source of tea. All tea, whether black, green or white, is made from varieties of this one plant - the Camellia Sinensis. The leaf tips are picked and fermented in great mounds and then rolled and dried out, or slow roasted. The amount of oxidation the leaves undergo determines whether it ultimately becomes black, green, white, oolong or pu-erh tea.

Apart from the making of our morning beverage, the Camellia plant has many other uses. Pressing the seed can make a fantastic oil which is used for frying in Asia, as it has a high smoke point and is ideal for salads and sauces due to its delicate flavour. Cold-pressed Camellia oil is also used as a beauty product for skin and hair.

Camellias can live for a very long time - the oldest living tea tree grows in the Yunnan province in south-west China and is said to be 3,200 years old. It's reported 500g of its tea leaves sold for €37,000 - that's one pricey cup of tea!

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