CES Jr: Before the Freeze

So, yes, this year is CES Jr’s fourth winter, I think. Something like that. I potted her up this past season so she’s got plenty of space for roots and insulating soil. And yes, last winter I kept her in the garage. And this winter I figured she’d probably grown enough to be okay outdoors.

And then I got scared. Tonight’s forecasted low in my area is 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and where CES Jr currently sits is shaded by the house for most of the warming afternoon sunlight time. This means it will probably get cooler there than the forecasted low, and let’s be honest how accurate are those ever, really. So I figured there will probably be some frost around or on her in the morning. But I still wanted to keep her outdoors this winter. Sooooo…….

I put a translucent plastic bag over her, container and all. In theory this should provide a greenhouse-like effect. And then, because maybe I was panicking a little, this happened.

This container holds the bonus blackberry plant that split from the larger shrub’s rootmass when I potted up all of my berries last week. I also grow blueberries and blackberries, you know. But that’s a different story. Check out my Instagram page if you want to see more about that. https://www.instagram.com/nicolerordway/?hl=en

Anyhow, I also covered up the wee bonus blackberry. You’ll notice it’s next to, but not in, my cold frame. This is because the container area I had set aside within for this winter is already full to capacity. I wanted to grow plenty of kale. Looks like, in exchange, I might have compromised some tiny plants in containers. But hopefully it’ll survive. Blackberries are notoriously good at surviving.

CES Jr Fall 2021 Update

So you know the repotting was a success. And if you don’t, there’s a post a month or so ago about that; scroll for it!

So you know my CES Jr (or Camellia effing sinensis II) had tons of flower buds on it.

But you haven’t seen the results yet! And they’re delightful, wondrous results of big, clunky, nonscented, messy flowers that are truly beautiful to me.

They look like sunny-side-up eggs!

Treees! And CES Jr Update!

I’m excited to announce that the separation and repot process of the Japanese maple seedlings was a total success! Of the 5 that survived early spring’s squirrel assault, all 5 seem to be very happy in their 1 gallon nursery trade pots. Check out the beautiful leaf buds on this one!

Also, CES Jr is doing even better than I’d thought: SHE SELF-SEEDED THIS SUMMER! There are 4 wee Camellia sinensis seedlings in her pot! And about a gazillion seed pods are on her branches. Get ready for some propagation updates in spring when those turn brown.

Camellia Effing Sinensis Jr UPDATE!

Okay, I know, it’s been a while. So long, in fact, that WordPress has apparently changed how they do post editing. It was pretty quick to pick up, but man, was this unnecessary.

Anyway, as my previous post indicated most of my daily updates are occurring on my Instagram account now. I wish WordPress had an easy way to update from a phone app or such….and maybe they do. Guess I have to look into that. Any recommendations would be helpful. BUT if you want to catch up on my tree stuff, plant stuff, writing stuff, dog stuff, and general THINGS, check out and Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nicolerordway/

I’m writing a post today because I KNOW there are some of you that follow this blog that maybe didn’t do that with the Instagram but are invested AT THIS POINT in the fate of CES Jr (Camellia effing sinensis Jr, AKA my damn tea plant.)

I’ve generally left it alone all year. This fall when it goes dormant I will repot it, because it’s roots are super exposed and make me feel bad as a plant parent, but honestly it doesn’t seem to give any fucks about that. Here are two pictures I took today: LOOK AT ALL THE BUDS!!!

Seriously, WOW! I had no idea she was doing this well and was this happy. No clue what’s up with that one wonky lateral branch, but LOOK AT ALL THE BUDS!

CES Jr Summer Update!

For those of you that are enjoying the garden updates, this one’s for you!

CES Jr (Camellia effing sinensis junior, for folks new to the story) approves of her treatment this year. You’ll remember that last winter I brought her in to the garage for the cold nights, to avoid the frost damage that killed my original CES. This spring/summer I have mostly left her alone in her pot on the sunny backyard stoop, with the exception of practically daily waterings because HOLY SHIT Virginia Beach doesn’t know what RAIN is. So THAT’s been fun.

The other day (read: last week-ish, or could be a few weeks ago, my internal calendar is so utterly fucked right now) my fiance noticed there were new baby leaves on CES Jr. THAT, dear readers, besides the fact that she FLOWERED in spring, assures me that this one is maybeprobablyhopefully gonna make it.

Here’s a photo for you non-believers:CESjr I didn’t say it was a GOOD photo. However, it shows you the new baby leaves, PLUS a veritable shit ton of buds for another round of delightfully fluffy floweres! Flowerers! FLOWERS! (There is wine involved in this post.)

SO, ZONE 8, make note! You want to overwinter CES (or “tea plant”) in your attached garage. The frost here is sneaky and it will dive in without warning, and we all know DAMN WELL you can’t trust the weather.com temperature predictions. However, if you overwinter appropriately, CES will manage all sorts of new growth.

Our next step with this particular plant is to murder and pull out the useless, thorny, wasp-harboring rose bushes just visible at the top of the picture, and plant CES Jr in their place. I am marginally concerned about this process because did-I-mention-the-THORNS, and also because the last time I had Miss Utility out they indicated some fucking yellow flags just next to the roses, which means gas line. Sooooo I’m going to get them to come again before we go digging, because NOBODY wants that update.

This won’t be til Fall though, probably October or November at the earliest. Check back!

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.