Tomorrow is the first of March which means we are twenty days away from the vernal equinox–the first day of spring. Not that anyone is counting. And not that Mother Nature cares. As we face another weekend of snow, my friends and I are wondering whether we will ever surface from this endless winter.
I miss color. I crave green grass and bright blue skies. I want to see a vibrant color palette pop with the arrival of tulips, crocuses, daffodils and forsythia.
As I was looking out the window today at nature’s still white canvas, searching for any sign of the coming season, I thought about camellias. In my mind I could see the iconic Southern blooms in a million shades of pink, white and red weighing down their lush evergreen branches. They could brighten even the dreariest of days.
Curious as to whether the cold-weather bloomer might be found in the Northeast, I Googled the camellia. Originally from Japan, these blooms made their way to Charleston in the 18th century and for hundreds of years, camellias thrived in Southern climates. But much to my surprise, I found they also had a home in New England for just as long. I had no idea the flower could survive north of the Mason-Dixon line. But thanks to greenhouses and devoted caretakers, they do. There is even a Massachusetts Camellia Society. Who knew? The Lyman Estate in Waltham, MA has been growing varieties of camellias in their greenhouses since the 1800s. Many of the Lyman camellias are over 100 years old. And across the Long Island Sound from my house, the Planting Fields Foundation has the largest collection of camellias under glass in the Northeast. Who knows, with the cultivation of hardy hybrids and new growing techniques, I might even be able to have a touch of the South in my garden next winter.
But until then, I have to remember spring will eventually make its way back to us and green sprouts will push their way up through the frozen ground. Tom Petty was right that the waiting is the hardest part, but there are few things more anticipated and appreciated than the first signs of spring in New England.
To help pass the time until those happy days wander our way, my friend Evelyn was sweet enough to shoot some pictures of gorgeous camellia blooms around Northwest Florida and sent them to me. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Photography by Evelyn Savage