Stewartia pseudocamellia is the more popular variety, if you can say that about a plant hardly anyone knows about and rarely plants. But if you see a stewartia it is usually this Japanese variety, known for incredibly mottled bark and big white flowers in late June.
|from Fine Gardening|
But even at a young age it flowers like crazy. The blooms are so big and heavy they fall to the ground after opening, but I like how the shattered blooms look at the feet of the tree, and there are so many more buds and flowers still opening that the show goes on.
The big white camellia-like flowers with their yellow centers look like fried eggs to me, and the cinnamon and cream colored bark looks like a swirly coffee drink --- this tree looks like breakfast at a fancy cafe.
In autumn is turns fire engine red, looking like this one year, but turning a deeper scarlet in most years.
Really, it is a spectacular tree that should be used in a place where it would get noticed.
I planted mine next to the front door, but it turns out that it just doesn't get seen there. It is perhaps too far over to the side, and the big redtwig dogwoods flanking the front porch are almost as tall, and hide it.
I have to walk around to the side of the house to see my stewartia at all, and the house siding and hose connection are not the best backdrops for such a pretty tree.
Of course with some size it will start to dominate the shrubs and take on some presence. It's a slow grower, although when I planted it seven years ago it looked like this, so there has been progress!
I also have a Stewartia monadelpha, a different variety that has smaller leaves, fewer, smaller flowers and also manages to hide in my garden despite being a lovely tree. The bark is a nice orangey color but not mottled.
It is planted at the edge of a seating area, but blends quietly into its surroundings and is unnoticed, even though I walk by it and sit under it frequently.
The flowers are demure. You have to look for them.
Like its cousin, it turns burning red in autumn. That skinny column of red is the young stewartia monadelpha the year after it was planted.
With everything going for both these stewartias in all seasons, people should walk into my garden and gasp. I should walk by and do the same.
But I have to remember to look, I have to make a point of going out to see them.
They are perhaps still too small. Maybe both needed more prominent placement, rather than up against the house or mixed in a border along the walk.
Perhaps with age they will have more dramatic presence and draw your eye, rather than just being interesting enough isolated in a photograph.
But until that happens, when you come to visit you will have to remind me to show you the two stewartias that grow in my garden. You won't notice them otherwise.