Some Philosophical Musings on Camellias

A pure white camellia sasanqua 'early pearly' hangs carefully on the end of the branch

Camellia sasanqua 'early pearly' at my home. Photo Jehan Blazey © Sydney Living Museums

As I watch the riotous camellias in my autumn garden bud, bloom and drop, I am often reminded of a wonderful poem my dad taught me as a young girl:

I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

My garden has two varieties of camellias, Sasanquas and Japonicas. Sasanquas, also known as ‘informal’ camellias, bloom much earlier than their formal counterpart, the Japonicas. They are much like the courtiers of old heralding the way for the kings or queens in a stately procession, and so I await the arrival of my ‘Grand Marshall’ in winter. The early blooms attract a variety of honey eating birds, notably the noisy miners. Sipping my cup of brewed camellia sinensis leaves (tea!), I watch them from my kitchen window hopping from branch to branch. Shinto thought credits the blooms as being home to the gods on their earthy visit and I begin to understand why these munificent blooms gracefully nourish their boisterous guests.

My wonderful father in law, who passed away recently, taught me how to dig a ‘good’ hole. No shortcuts were taken in ensuring the bed was beautifully made for the arrival of five new sasanquas. We searched for them together one sunny day in nurseries along the south coast, each one duly examined and interrogated. Arriving back with our haul, we carefully tucked them in and turned down their sheet with a sprinkling of fertiliser. Now when I look at the magnificent hedgerow of Sasanquas and see those early blooms drop a beautiful red, white and pink carpet on the grass below, I remember that ‘buried Caesar’.

SLM has a significant collection of rare camellias which you can visit or read more about here: 

Camellia Blooms at Vaucluse House 

Camellia japonica 'jean lyne'

Camellias Light up the Winter Garden

About the author

Jehan Blazey a Visitor Interpretation Officer at the Museum of Sydney

Jehan Blazey

Visitor & Interpretation Officer

Jehan is a Visitor & Interpretation Officer (VIO) at SLM – City Portfolio. Her background is in Interior Design.