A Tree Worthy of Janet: Stewartia pseudocamellia

By Gardennia nutii
I lost a gardening friend this past fall; my neighbor Janet who was one of the most wonderful people I’ve met. She made it a point to look for the positive, live in every moment, and find ways to continue to grow and experience new cultures, ideas, people and plants. We shared a passion for gardening and spent many afternoons sitting outside planning all the fun things we were going to do with our yards. One day while sitting atop a long grass hill, she looked at me and said, “Don’t you just want to roll down this hill? What fun that would be!” Janet was in her 80s and I believe common sense won out that day, but she never lost sight of her inner-child and opportunity for adventure.

It’s with Janet in mind that I planted Stewartia pseudocamellia yesterday. This tree is a true specimen and offers something for every season: foliage emerges bronzy purple in spring, develops to dark green in summer, and turns bright red-orange in the fall. In midsummer white camellia-like flowers open in random succession and are followed by pointed brown seed pods. And the bark…wow! Stunning bark exfoliates in strips of orange, gray, and reddish brown. A slow-growing tree for a smaller areas, it reaches approximately 20 feet in 20 years. (It can reach up to 40 feet if given the right growing conditions or can be grown as a multi-stemmed shrub up to 12 feet).

My new stewartia is planted between our driveways, placed so I see it every time I leave, come home, or sit in my front room reading. It will remind me of a lovely lady and how I should live life to the fullest…a reminder that beauty can be attained in every season of life.