Red Camellia Blossom at Descanso Gardens
Yesterday, Martine and I visited Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge. At this time of year, the garden is still pretty dead—except for the camellias. The blossom above, fo example, caught my eye.
The title of this post refers not only to the flowers, which are stunning, but also to the fact that I am addicted to the Camellia sinensis, which is the scientific name for tea. I do not drink coffee, and I don’t particularly like carbonated beverages. In this cold month of January, I make a pot of Indian black tea every morning. I drink the tea hot for breakfast and iced for dinner and as a snack. Other than water, that’s about all I drink, ever. I might have a beer when it gets really hot, but no more than a dozen or so times a year.
The camellias at Descanso this time of year are Camellia japonicas, though there are a couple of other species, such as reticulata and sasanqua are also to be found. What makes Descanso’s collection unique is that they are protected by a large forest of California Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia)—protected in the sense that camellias usually do not like direct sunlight.
Some of the Oak Forest at Descanso
There is talk that many of the oaks at Descanso are centuries old and need to be replaced little by little with some other shade tree that coexists well with camellias. I don’t know how the garden staff will accomplish this, but I am sure that their professionals will be ultra-conservative, in the best meaning of the term.
Descanso’s Rose Garden on New Years Weekend
Today, Martine and I went to visit Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge. Despite the drought, I thought at least the camellias would be in bloom. There were camellias all right—two blossoms looked pretty fair. Most of the camellia bushes had not yielded any flowers. The Rose garden (above) looked as if it were ready for some cactus plantings.
I report with a smirk that rain is predicted for most of this week beginning tomorrow night. I have already gone on record about the unjustifiably high salaries TV weather persons earn for telling whoppers to their broadcast audience. Oh, it will probably rain—a few millimeters in the mountains. But I rather doubt I will be getting wet soon unless I take a shower.
The oak trees at Descanso (below) looked all right, but most are over a century old and will eventually have to be replaced by another type of shade tree to encourage the camellias.
Pacific Coastal Oaks at Descanso
The Oak Forest at Descanso Gardens
“Heart of Oak” is and has for more than 200 years been the official march of the Britain’s Royal Navy. If you want to hear the lyrics, see below:
For me, the connotation is somewhat similar: There is something about oak trees that exude both strength and beauty. At Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge, there is a massive oak canopy protecting a host of other plants, most particularly the acres of camellias that Descanso is famous for. According to the park website:
Experience the giants in the Descanso landscape, the Coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia). These trees, some centuries old, are the remainder of a forest that once blanketed the region. The Coast Live Oak typifies the natural Southern California coastal landscape. These trees are flowering plants and belong to the beech family (Fagacea). There are 19 species of Quercus native to California. The Coast Live Oak is an evergreen tree oak. Its natural distribution ranges from California’s Mendocino County along the Coast Ranges down to northern Baja California.
The Coast Live Oak is known as a “keystone species,” meaning that the tree supports the existence of hundreds of other species, including mammals, birds, insects, fungi, plants, and even reptiles and amphibians. The Tongva [Gabrielino] people who made this region their home relied on acorns as an important food source. The importance of the Coast live oak in the interconnected web of life cannot be overstated.
For me, the oak forest is the principal year-round draw. Because California is in the middle of a drought, the camellias are not as lush as in previous years, but the oaks are always evergreen. The pattern of intersecting branches as in the above photo are Zen-like in heir intensity and always make my heart glad.