Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Glory

This weekend was a glorious one here in Quincy. The Korean mums put on a dazzling show, and the satsumas and lemons went about their slow business of ripening, displaying rich, soft shades of gold. It was so cool I was able to keep the doors wide open both days. That meant the cats were free to run from the house to the breezeway to the Little House and back, throwing up wherever they wanted and tearing up all the furniture in their path. It was a great weekend for the cats.


More satsumas

Bird houses in the morning light

Korean mums. I used to have tons, but a lot of them died over the summer. Why?

On Saturday morning I planted two Magnoliaeflora camellias along the southern edge of the backyard. (Someday I hope to have a whole border of camellias all along this side.) The Magnoliaeflora is so beautiful, a classic camellia—that’s why I bought two. It has the shiniest dark green leaves and porcelain-pink semi-double flowers; the flowers are so delicate they make me think of precious, fragile old teacups.

This isn't Magnoliaeflora; it's Pink Perfection. Somehow I can never get my photos and my text to match.

I first heard of the Magnoliaeflora when I lived in Atlanta, in Grant Park, a charming old neighborhood with brick sidewalks and Victorian houses in various states of repair. Our next-door neighbor, Father Ford, a retired Episcopal priest, was a great gardener. He spent all day every day behind his massive garden wall, installing fountains and fish ponds and camellias that were already full size. He was nearly blind, but somehow he still knew exactly where everything should be positioned--the gravel paths and the iron peacocks and the tulips, the heavy urns of fragrant rosemary. I remember once I got up the courage to ask him about some of his plants, and he took me on a tour, speaking mainly in Latin. And that was when I saw the Magnoliaeflora. The petals were so pale they seemed to glow in the deep shade.

Father Ford gave another neighbor a Magnoliaeflora for a housewarming present, and I always thought that was so neat, such a perfect gift. I was fascinated by Father Ford. He was so refined, so learned, so genteel. I knew he had been an important civil rights leader in Atlanta in the '50s and '60s, and that he was the founder of Emmaus House, a well-known community center that served the inner-city poor. Father Ford had a screen porch on the third floor of his grand house, and he would sleep up there, among the magnolia branches, on summer nights.

Now finally, after years of searching, I have my own Magnoliaefloras. I planted them in a combination of pine bark mulch and native soil, then watered them well (it’s terribly dry here). As I worked I thought about camellias, tried to figure out why I love them so much, and one reason I came up with is that they live so long. They persist, changing gradually over time, aging, becoming. . . . Over the years they grow to tree size, take on coats of lichen and Spanish moss. Character develops. They endure, grow gnarled and venerable, and when you come upon an old one you can't help but respect it for all it's withstood.

Anyway, I plan to go crazy planting camellias this fall and winter. And I want to visit, finally, Massee Lane Gardens, the historic home of the American Camellia Society, in Fort Valley, Georgia. It’s a 100-acre botanical garden whose centerpiece is the Society’s extensive camellia collection. I’ve been wanting to visit for decades, literally, so hopefully this year I’ll finally make the trip.

On Saturday afternoon I did some more mulching in my new bed on the south side of the front yard. This bed is so big that I’ve been mulching it for two years and I still haven’t finished the job. I weeded too, and did lots of watering. And then, too fast, all my gardening fun was over. Before I knew it, it was Sunday night.

Collards. They've really grown!

The kitchen. What does this picture have to do with what I've written? You guessed it. Nothing at all.


  1. Hi Leslie...I had to Google Magnoliaeflora to see what the flower looks like and it's beautiful. I can see why you're so taken with it. And, I loved your description of why you like camellias...they are every bit of what you described...the quintessential southern shrub, and you have the perfect garden for them.

    You definitely had me wanting to visit Father Ford's garden myself. How fortunate you are to have the memory of him and his garden live on in your memories. I know that gardeners love to share their gardens and would be quite pleased to make a lasting impression on a younger person and encourage their love for gardening as well.

  2. That camellia is so beautiful, it's breathtaking.

    I love your kitchen photo. Sigh. It doesn't need a reason to be in this blog, but I'm glad you posted it.


  3. Thanks, Susan. I should have thought to link to a picture of the Magnoliaeflora after going on and on about it. I can't wait 'til mine bloom; they do have quite a few buds even though they are just babies.

  4. I'm so glad you liked my irrelevant kitchen picture, Lorraine. Is everything all right with your air conditioner? I've been thinking about you and I hope all is well.

  5. Thank you, Anonymous. I try my best, but I must say I almost never have the right pictures for my posts. The pictures are the hardest part.

  6. There is such a beautiful glow to all these pictures... the collards, the birdhouses, the stained glass. I loved reading about Father Ford. I remember peering over his rosemary-draped walls and imagining the wonders his garden held.-B

  7. Oh, by the way, I am jealous of your satsumas. I have one! What am I doing wrong? -B

  8. Thanks, Bunny! Have you been fertilizing your satsuma? That's the only thing I do--fertilize mine with Citrustone. By the way, I'm coming over tonight to talk about the clues. You still want me too, right?

  9. Yes! Please! See you tonight. -B

  10. You write a lovely blog.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Lovely blog, great post and pictures. I will definitely be growing some fruit in my garden as I have a small allotment plot next to my garden furniture that was repaired by MRK Services a few months ago.