Descent of Frost: Wolf sacrifices beast

April 24th, 2012
by Jo Law

During the first pentad of this last autumnal solar term, intermitten wet weather presisted in the Illawarra. A new moon began on April 22nd. Snow is falling on the Australian Alps. The Japanese version of the almanac tells us that this is the time when ‘wild camellias bloom’.

Elsewhere I have written about the collection of camellias planted in our garden. The Camellias sasanquas at the front of the house begin flowering in mid to late March. This is followed by the big Camellia japonica tree in the back garden. The dark green leaves are topped with pale pink blooms in the winter months. In late winter, these pale pink blooms fall whole on the ground carpet the rocky slope in backyard. While these dense evergreen would not have been my plants of choice, their seasonal flowering has become an intergral part of late autumn and winter days in our Austinmer home.

Like the chrysanthemums, the appreciation for camellias (山茶花) is shared by both Chinese and Japanese cultures. The ancient connection bewteen the two is nowhere more evident in the naming of the Japanese cultivar, Setsugekka (雪月花). Its literal meaning, ‘snow, moon, flower’ is borrowed from a phrase by the Tang dynasty poet, Bai Juyi, whose works were celebrated in Heian Japan (8th to 10th century). It reads:

琴詩酒友皆抛我 雪月花時最憶君

In the embrace of pipa,  poems, wine, and friends; in the time of snow, moon and flowers I think of you.

2 Responses to “Descent of Frost: Wolf sacrifices beast”

  1. 1 Mike
    April 30th, 2012 at 20:37

    Camellia have been relegated from positions of dominance in our garden, using secaters and chain saw! We aren’t without them though and will never be in this suburb, planted throughout with them.
    The plant is in the same group as tea plants I believe….. are any of these garden varieties suitable for the teapot?

  2. 2 Jo Law
    April 30th, 2012 at 21:35

    Indeed, the ornametnal camellias are part of the tea family, Theaceae, and share the same genus as the popular tea plant,

  3. Camellia sinensis
  4. . In fact, the chinese term for camellia, 山茶花, literally means ‘mountain tea flower’ (or I guess, ‘wild tea flower’). In my research, I found out that there is camellia native to Hong Kong, simply called: Camellia hongkongensis or 香港茶, literally meaning ‘Hong Kong tea’.

    We don’t have any actual

  5. Camellia sinensis
  6. although I did once consider buying a plant from Diggers. So no fresh organic green tea for us from the garden. But with help from our friends, we did do some severe pruning to the camellia trees, so now we have some dried the hard wood for the fire.