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A Blog-iversary Gift from The Professor

After four decades, Professor Sargent is still going strong.

Today is the one year anniversary of the day I started this blog.

It’s my Blog-iversary!

I think that today it is fitting to write about the Professor Sargent camellia that grows just outside my kitchen door.

Fess came with the house.   When I purchased the place in 1985, Fess was probably about 15 years old.

I took one look at him, turned up my nose and proclaimed (in a whiny voice) “I don’t like camellias.  They get scale.  I’m going to cut this down and replace it with a cool plant.”

But then, fortunately, I got busy for a month or two and left Fess alone.  Fall rolled around and then winter.  I still had plans to terminate Fess but then… in December he presented me with a bounty of beautiful red flowers.

The girth of the Professor's trunk is quite respectable now that he's 40 or so.

The flowers were double and jam packed with petals.  They reminded me of red carnations but the camellia enthusiasts describe them as having a peony or anemone form.

That year, Fess bloomed from December until May.  The ground was littered with spent blossoms.

I filled my vases again and again with rich red blooms – even in the dead of winter.

I was hooked.

I did some research and found out that ‘Professor Sargent’ dates from 1925 or earlier.  The camellia possibly originated in Charleston’s Magnolia Gardens and was named for Professor Charles Sprague Sargent who was then Director of the Arnold Arboretum.

‘Professor Sargent’ is a Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) with evergreen foliage and robust growth.  In old gardens the plant can attain a height of 30+ feet.  I pruned mine into a multi-trunked small tree and it is close to 20′ tall.

After my first winter with Fess, I was embarrassed that I had ever considered chopping him down.

As Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once said,

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find…
You get what you need…”

The Buddha is happy to be adorned by one of the Professor's crimson blossoms.

So apparently I needed Fess.  He is with me still – 26 years later.  He is pushing 40 at least and has earned a place of honor in my garden.

I look forward to his first December blossoms and consider him to be my finest Christmas tree.  I have danced with his flowers in my hair!

On the down side, Fess is very difficult to photograph.  I tried for years and never got a decent image.  But then, I realized that my rental house which was in the background provided an unsuitable backdrop.  I repainted the rental house with Fess in mind and my photos have greatly improved.

So here’s to ‘Professor Sargent’ – one of the elders of my garden – may he live long and prosper.

And thanks to those who have visited my blog this past year and listened to my ramblings  – may you live long and prosper as well.


 

Small Pleasures

Today the wall vase over my kitchen sink contains 'Minor Monarque' daffodil, 'Professor Sargent camellia and a possumhaw holly twig with road flare orange fruit.

It was rainy this morning and I hung around the house and had a sort of stream of consciousness kind of day.  It cleared a bit in the afternoon and I ventured down to the veggie garden to sow some English and snow pea seed.

While I was out, I gathered the first of the ‘Minor Monarque’ narcissus and a few crimson ‘Professor Sargent’ camellias.  I plopped them into the tiny wall vase that hangs over my kitchen sink.  I added a bit of boxwood foliage and a possumhaw holly twig loaded with orange fruit.  The result pleased me.

For the rest of the day, I smiled every time I walked into the kitchen and saw my little composition.

There wasn’t much to my arrangement (unless you want to count the first daffodils of 2011).  I’d hopefully get a “C” if it was a project in a Floral Design class.

There’s not much to the wall vase, either.  As I recall, I paid $2.00 for it and it now has a gigantic chip on the lip.

But still, the combination made me ridiculously happy on a January day and inspired me to post a favorite Annie Dillard quote taken from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

“… The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get….”


 

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