The rarest treasure in the garden

A golden camellia – and it’s been a long wait.

Our garden is less than a quarter of an acre, but many years ago we became so invested in camellias we ended up with more than 250 of them. Heavily pruned – obviously. We exhibited at shows, became camellia judges, wrote for horticultural publications, generally gained a great deal of pleasure from these beautiful flowers and the like-minded people we met from all over the world because of them.

One of the varieties we bought was Camellia Chrysantha – a golden variety from a botanical institute in China. Year after year we looked forward to flowers – as did many of our Camellia Society friends. No flowers. We all decided we’d been duped as the years rolled on and on and on.

But this morning we found them – clear yellow flowers as promised. A bit battered because they’d fallen to the ground, but there are more buds to follow so hopefully we’ll get some better photos.

Kris Pearson - Camellia Chrysantha

It has taken around twenty years for the tree to flower. It’s a miracle we still have it because camellia petal blight was discovered in New Zealand about the time we bought our tree. Discovered by me, actually. I was so hacked off by our flowers turning brown from the middle instead of being damaged by the weather on the outer petal edges that I gave some to the soil scientists at Massey University, asking if this could possibly be what we’d all read about. Pitying looks, and ‘No Kris, we don’t have this in New Zealand.’ And then all hell broke loose in horticultural circles because yes, we did, all over the Wellington region, and it was spreading fast as the breeze carried the spores ever further afield.  No-one ever established how it entered the country.

But back to my golden miracle. Maybe climate change has caused enough of a swing in temperatures that this Chinese/Vietnamese  variety has finally agreed to flower? Maybe it just takes its time wherever it’s grown? A little research has informed me the dried flowers are used to make health teas which are extremely expensive. Goodness – we could start a whole new industry at Pearson Park!