June 29, 2015


Our 20 year old Stewartia pseudocamellia  which oddly skipped blooming entirely last year, (but which has bloomed every year since I planted it), is, for some strange reason,  loaded with flowers. Cars are stopping to ask us about this tree which seems so out of place in the June garden.

With it's handsome, smooth muscular bark (I  know, sounds kinky, but the next time you see the tan and beige bark on a mature Stewartia - just try to find a better way to describe it). attractive buds and branching in the winter, spectacular fall foliage and then this - - clouds of white camellia-like blossoms in early summer, and one can see why the Stewartia tree is so treasured ( and yet, still rarely seen in most gardens).

I do need to prune some branches away from the service gate so that the gas man can get to the greenhouse, but that can wait, especially when it looks this nice.

A not-so-pretty view of the deck, but it does show you how big our tree has grown. Typcially, the Stewartia species are smaller trees - 35 feet max but ours is already that tall. Slow growing ( I planted this tree when I was 29 years old), and now I am appreciating it um…a couple of decades later.

I look forward to the very camellia-like blossoms every June and July, and why not, they look exactly like the big white Higo camellias we have in the greenhouse, but these come in clouds, and outdoors.

With seven species available in North America, the most commonly grown species is this one - S. pseudo camellia, hardy to USDA Zone 5, but check with the other species, as some are more tender, only hardly to USDA Zone 7 or so.
 I would push the zones a bit, as I told some friends of mine from Vermont this weekend, who were craving getting a tree for their Zone 4 garden. Might be worth trying, as I could say that mine experienced Zone 4 conditions in some winters, as we have had many winters which dipped into the -0º F down to -10º F so if you are a hearty soul, look for a micro climate ( our's is planted near the house away from the wind).

If there is one downside ( maybe two) they are that the blossoms drop in abundance, and need to be raked up every evening. I do like the sound of them tumbling down out of the tree just as the evening arrives, perhaps temperature changes or light levels signal the drop. The second negative might be the seed pods which drop later in the summer - very sharp, and can stab a bare foot ( Hey, I know, since I 've stepped on many!). Besides that, the tree is virtually flawless. Why not look for one at your local nursery?


  1. Anonymous2:07 PM

    What a beautiful tree.
    Melanie in N.E. Ohio

  2. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful tree, and I think the view of the deck is as pretty as anyone could hope for!
    Mine has quite a way to go but maybe I can use this post to motivate it to grow faster.

  3. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO jealous! Simply spectacular.

  4. I agree, magnificent!

  5. I adore these blooming all around Cambridge this time of year. If I ever come to own a big enough piece of land in this part of the country a Stewartia will be one of the first things I will plant.

  6. Anonymous7:22 AM

    dear matt
    the national collection of stewartia is at t6he polly hill arboretum in west tisbury, ma. come down some time and have a look!
    all best,
    ~ 02568

  7. But can you make tea from the leaves?


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