Tea Growing: Chapter 1: CES Jr

(This is part of a series. For the first post, refer to Tea Growing: Intro Post. This particular segment was written in November-ish 2018.)

 

CHAPTER ONE: The Legacy of Camellia effing sinensis

We’re starting with the ineffable, the immortal, the sublime Camellia effing sinensis (actual Latin name, feel free to look it up) because that’s where I started with this whole endeavor. I had this great, glowing idea that I could grow my own “tea plant” to fruition, harvest its leaves whenever I wanted, and make delicious green tea any time the whim struck me.

I know, hilarious, right?

Turns out, Camellia effing sinensis doesn’t winter well in Zone 8. Again, you need to Know Your Fucking Grow Zone. Well, let me correct myself. Camellia effing sinensis supposedly winters FINE in Zone 8: it just needs a blanket of snow to cover its pretty green head before the first frost.

You’re right, that’s sarcasm.

I killed my first Camellia effing sinensis plant because I, stupidly, thought it would be just fine out on my stoop, in a big heavy pot, in the thick of winter. Admittedly, usually in Zone 8 we don’t get a ton of snow. We also usually don’t get a ton of frost. I thought if it was close to the building, protected by the overhang of the gutter, it’d be fine.

It wasn’t.

The leaves browned (First Clue!) immediately after the first frost iced the tops of the grass and I still thought it could make it. I’d just treat it like any of my other potted trees/shrubs and it’d make it. It’d toughen up.

It didn’t.

Winter settled in with a couple inches of the white stuff, then spring came with the thaw, and my first Camellia (R. I. P.) sinensis lost its leaves and withered. Tragic, to be sure. Perhaps not the best plant choice for Zone 8. Any rational gardener would turn in her trowel and have a look at something else.

I bought a second one.

Camellia effing sinensis junior (I’ll refer to her as CES Jr from now on) arrived in the summer of 2018. I transferred her to a pot that I can actually lift, which will be important come winter when I plan to relocate plant and pot into my house-attached garage. Ah, learning! As if to encourage me, CES Jr bloomed in the fall of 2018, producing a lovely display of fragrant white marshmallowy flowers with a whole thicket of yellow things in their middles. Already CES Jr is promising to be a healthier plant than her damn predecessor, and we’ll have to just see how she does.

I do have plans, O reader! Don’t dismiss me as a novice who has no desire to learn; that learning process is the meat of the story I’m telling here, you know. For the winter of 2018 she will be tucked away in the garage, which should retain enough ambient heat from the attached house so as to not freeze CES Jr but should also expose her to the lowered temperatures of Zone 8 winter. Then, in spring 2019 I plan to let her continue growing in her pot. Perhaps winter 2019 will be spent again in the garage, unless she grows enough roots to be transplanted in the fall. Once she’s in the ground (2019 or 2020) I’ll use some landscaping type fabric to cover her BEFORE the first frost arrives. Apparently, this is how they are maintained when grown in snow-prone areas, so it should be overkill for Zone 8. Time will tell, and later chapters will continue the Saga of Camellia effing sinensis junior.

That is, if she survives her first winter.

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