Botanist's Lens: Tea, Taxa, and Technique


Tea Camellia, Camellia sinensis


Two’s company and three’s a crowd? Not even when - oddly enough - tea, taxa, and technique are squished together. Well, at least that’s a glimpse of what our past week looked like in the horticulture department.


Let’s start with Tea: It is ‘tea time’ in the gardens! One of the most fragrant and delicate Camellia is in bloom! C. sinensis is a tea Camellia, currently blooming in the woodland gardens. Creamy white blossoms fragile enough to last only few weeks are a treat to the olfactory senses. Flowers resemble Stewartia and Schimas.


Camellia sinesis (first two photos) and various Camellia blooms


Overall, we are having a fabulous bloom time for fall Camellias. With no sign of a cold snap, hitting the buds early on, we have been able to begin looking in depth into uninominal and binomial taxa.


What is a taxa? "Plant taxonomy or classification is the science of naming organisms and placing them in a hierarchical structure, each level being given a name (e.g., kingdom, division (phylum), class, order, family, genus, species). Taxonomic units at a given level are termed taxa (singular taxon). Names of higher order taxa (e.g., kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus) are uninominal (i.e., each name is a single word). Names of species are binomial (e.g., Magnolia virginiana), and names of taxa below the rank of species (e.g., subspecies, varieties) are comprised of three or more words (e.g., Panicum virgatum var. cubense)." https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/.../technical/toolsdata/plant/....


Flower morphology in depth using Dr. William Ackerman’s ‘Beyond the Camellia Belt’ book as our best guide.


Carefully peeling through each flower petal, looking in depth into the shape, color and patterns, Grace Washbourne (a dedicated garden restoration volunteer) is helping me in restarting Camellia ID this week. Even gloomy looking rainy cold days didn't hamper our efforts at all. Well, how could they, when treasures left behind by Dr. Ackerman are awaiting proper identification and cataloguing of their beauty and tenacity.



Cinderella Pumpkin centerpiece or porch decor.

Now time for talent or is it really just a matter of simple technique? Making fall centerpieces isn’t as complicated. Flower arranging techniques follow 3 basic design principles: asymmetry, groups of 3’s and blank spaces are key. Also, knowing what plant parts lasts long will help, if not then Oasis will help! (Oasis is type of wet floral foam)


Oasis (floral foam) on top of Cinderella Pumpkin used for greens arrangement.


Sharing with you today, techniques of fall arrangements to make on a Pumpkin. Add a pre soaked Oasis (not dripping wet) on top of a flat 'Cinderella Pumpkin' with floral wire. Once that's in place, plug in varieties of color and texture. Good examples: small twigs with colored barks, Rosemary or Lavender for fragrance and don't forget to add the reminders of fall- dry grass flower heads or even seed heads of Magnolias.


Clip off leaves from Winterberry before using them in an arrangement


After all, group of three isn’t a crowd: even tea, taxa and technique together made our week refreshingly fragrant in the horticulture department. Find your own technique and create your own masterpieces and definitely try the design rule or three.


No greens on hand? No worries, we will be selling some unique gardens greens bundles in the coming weeks (information coming soon).