Posts by Matt Pilcher
It’s about this time every year that I quietly thank the myriad plant breeders that spent a large portion of their careers working to bring cold hardy Camellias to me here in Nashville. Fifteen years ago, if you’d asked a landscaper to plant Camellias for you, he may have looked at you like you were crazy. Nowadays, we have nearly a hundred varieties that can be grown easily here in middle Tennessee.
There are few plants that can boast the wonderful traits of camellias. Most are upright, evergreen shrubs with soft (not spiny) leaves and beautiful blooms opening some time between mid fall and mid spring. When the rest of your garden is shutting down for winter and the landscape is looking bleak and dreary, Camellias are gearing up for their time in the spotlight.
Bloom colors can range from white to pale pink to dark red. There are single and double blooms — some flowers are up to five inches in diameter. Many varieties are hardy in zones 7 and 8, and some cultivars can be grown in Zone 6. Camellia japonica is normally hardy to 10°F, but sudden changes in temperature can damage the foliage or kill open flower buds. Sasanqua camellias are more cold hardy — tolerating temperature as low as 5°F. Many new cultivars have exceptional winter hardiness.
Camellias grow best in partial shade — they do not like early morning or late afternoon sun. Red blooming cultivars are more sun tolerant then white or pink flowering cultivars. In the winter camellias need protection from direct sun and drying winds. A planting site under tall pine trees or on the north or west side of a building is ideal. Plants grown in full sun may develop leaf scorch.
The real necessity for these garden treasures is good drainage! Camellias (like many of our blooming evergreens) hate wet feet and need sharp drainage. Unfortunately for us, that soil type doesn’t exist in most of middle TN, so it must be created. Amending the soil around the planting hole with lots of well draining organic matter makes a huge difference in how well Camellias grow and bloom. Acidic soil is also a must, but most of us have that in spades.
Some of my favorite varieties include:
Camellia japonica ‘Korean Fire’ – this camellia can grow 12-15 feet tall and 6-8′ wide, and it blooms march to may here in Nashville. It has beautiful deep red, single blooms with contrasting golden stamens in its center. This variety is the hardiest of the japonica cultivars, surviving recorded temps of -12F!
Camellia japonica ‘April Dawn’ – another super hardy variety. This beauty grows to about 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide and bares on of the most beautiful blooms, in my humble opinion. ‘April Dawn’ is a mid season bloomer (winter and early spring) and the big double blooms, opening pale pink with dark pink streaks, will stop you in your tracks!
Camellia x ‘Artic Rose’ – This beautiful double looks just like the long stem red roses we all know and love, but on a beautiful, compact, evergreen shrub that looks as good in the landscape as its blooms look floating in a bowl of water on the dining room table. This variety only grows to 6 feet tall and wide.
Camellia x ‘Winter’s Snowman’ – a fall blooming, heavy flowering variety that can grow to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide if left untrimmed. This gorgeous plants shows off it’s semi-double white blooms around the first frost here in Nashville. It’s hard to beat for sheer profusion of blooms and it adds a little flair with wine red new growth in the spring.
There are countless other varieties available at garden centers all over town! I am constantly discovering new cultivars and seeing Camellias used in new and interesting ways all over town. If you haven’t introduced Camellias into your landscape yet, give us a call at Perfect World Landscapes and we will find a home for some of these beauties in your yard this winter.
Backyards are large in Crieve Hall but these owners didn’t have a space from which to really enjoy theirs. The goal was to design and install a groovy outdoor living space next to the clients’ existing deck.
With this project we incorporated a cut flagstone patio, pergola, landscaping, water feature and low voltage lighting.
We designed the cut flagstone patio and pergola to create a unique space to entertain. The pergola provides architectural structure with the feeling of being in a room. The landscaping selections soften the hard surfaces and provide seasonal interest. A custom urn water feature provides a relaxing focal point.
The Boonstras loved it.
“Everything about the plan was well thought out,” they say. “Perfect World suggested a variety of plants for the plan and each one truly has a purpose – whether it’s to create a border, a natural barrier, or simply to look or smell great as you walk by.”
The result is a fabulous outdoor living space for the clients’ private relaxation or for entertaining guests.
“Steve and Matt are both great to work with and they really know what they are doing,” according to the Boonstras. “We love our new space and plan to expand in the future.”
The Grays wanted a custom landscape design and installation that included elements from Eastern landscape design principles. They had ideas for the overall look as well as some specific elements, and we incorporated them into the landscape design.
A low-maintenance landscape, incorporation of a water feature, the use of low voltage lighting and a path from the driveway to the front door were musts. The challenge was blending the modern feel of the home with Asian elements in the landscape.
“We had a few ideas of what we wanted, but had no idea of how to proceed or what plants would flourish in our climate zone,” says Jason Gray. “After talking with Perfect World Landscaping, we knew that they understood our concepts and goals, and we were blown away by their suggestions.”
We designed the landscape to include specific plants, boulders and a curved pathway that give the feel of an Asian theme without screaming “Japanese Garden.”
We selected hardy low maintenance plants that complemented the design of the landscape and the style of the house. Along the path, a water feature and artfully placed creative focal points. Low-voltage lighting provides for after-hours enjoyment of the landscape and safety along the path.
The result is a beautiful combination of style and function that compliments both the client’s house and personality.
“Our plans were substantial and included trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, boulders, lighting, water feature and a driveway. The entire job happened as planned, on time, and according to the budget.
“We could not have been happier, and we received countless compliments from both our neighbors and passersby,” Jason says.
Flexible stems work in children’s gardens
One of my earliest gardening friends introduced me to Paper Bush (Edgeworthia papyrifera), and I haven’t been able to forget it since. It is an odd little shrub and not well-known.
Paper Bush is a “stemmy” shrub that bears clusters of tiny, trumpet shaped, creamy yellow flowers so fragrant you can catch the smell on a breeze yards away. Best of all, these flowers bloom in winter and early spring when little else is happening in the garden. They usually take center stage or share the spotlight with the likes of hellebores and winter jasmine.
After blooming for a few weeks, Paper Bush blends into most environments without fanfare. The shrubs love rich, evenly moist soil and can handle full sun, but in my experience they look better in a little afternoon shade in Middle Tennessee. In an ideal location, they can grow to be 6-by-6-feet, but I’ve never seen seen one in this region larger than 4 feet.
Paper Bush has a place in the landscape as either a specimen or conversation starter. Aside from its obvious charm, Paper Bush has stems that are so fibrous, you can literally tie them in knots without splitting the wood. This unusual trait makes the shrub perfect for the “kid’s section” of the garden.
I love to design for children, and I’ll be designing around an Edgeworthia for my son’s garden in the backyard this spring. I’m hoping plants like Paper Bush will spur the horticultural interest among the next generation at my house and beyond.