Hello everyone, just wanted to share with you all one of my recent plant sort-of-experiments that turned out surprisingly well so far. As you all in the northeast US probably know we’ve been having some very cold temperatures this winter. My ‘Sochi’ tea seedling has handled the weather like a champ. It’s supposedly rated to 6B zone hardiness, but time will tell. It is in a pretty advantageous microclimate, near a brick wall in a full sun exposure. A deer ate it down to a stump earlier in the year (trying to imagine a hyped up over-caffeinated deer) and the plant returned with a vengeance and has flowered profusely up until the really cold weather in December. The only other thing I have done for it is wrap a blanket around the outside of the welded wire guard I made to protect it against deer, and I also wrapped the base of the plant with a blanket when the temperatures were getting down to around 0f. I think it’s the really cold, drying wind that is likely to damage it. There are only two or three leaves total on the entire plant that have shown any cold damage so far, as you can see in the last picture.
Camellias in general are pretty plants and interesting to grow, I really enjoy it aesthetically (especially the sunny side up flowers!) and the fact that it may one day yield tea to drink is really just a bonus to me.
Very nice. That’s some bold deer, coming right up to your house. We have problems with them here, or had, as disease took out a lot of them this year, but I’ve never seen them close to our house. In the yard, yes, but not the house.
So with a name like Sochi, is it a Russian variety? Maybe that’s why it’s so hardy. That would be cool to able to go outside, pluck a few leaves, and make some tea with it. I’m surprised it’s blooming this time of the year. Is that normal?
Yea, Sochi is a resort town in Russia right on the black sea, so it’s warm but it can also get a lot of colder weather blown in from the mainland. They even have palm trees. Sochi tea is a tea varietal developed in the early 1900’s just for their climate. The tea plantation there is one of the northernmost tea plantations in the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sochi#Tea
It started blooming in July and didn’t stop until the really cold weather in December, this could have been a reaction to being pruned down from the deer, or perhaps it’s just normal for this species of Camellia to bloom heavily until really cold weather. The petals all dropped after the freeze, but I think the flowers were pollinated as I can see them swelling and they’re still holding onto the branch, hopefully forming seed. I don’t believe it breeds entirely true, but like pawpaws very close to the mother plant, so I’m really eager to grow out some more of them and fill in my tea hedge more.
Very encouraging.I have grown tea plants in pots for years, and I am afraid of growing them in ground. Lugging 40+pots of tea plants is not fun thing to do. I might try to plant a few in ground and protect it in winter to see what happens
I like to keep a backup of marginal plants like this if I’m going to try them outside, just in case. I think when the polar vortex blows some really cold weather in the negatives my way I’ll probably need to supplement some heat with christmas lights or heat tape until the plant gets much bigger and more established, but I was really surprised with how well the plant has done outside so far considering its size currently. In my neck of the woods in WV, it has been down to 0f a few times this year, and it was down around the teens for about a week straight before warming up a little. I’m thinking for a younger tea plant like it is, it is a very promising sign.
What part of WV are you in, I’d lived in wheeling area for few years. It’s warmer than Chicago. But with a good winter protection, it night survive.
Did you seed in ground directly or moved it from a pot?
That seems like similar or maybe a slight bit better than the conditions my Sochi was in here in WV. I think protecting it from the cold wind with the blankets seems to have made a large difference in leaf drop on mine, maybe. How old is your plant? Is it in a pretty sunny spot against the brick?
They went in the ground last spring. I got it and two other cultivars from Raintree. That is the most sunny of the least sunny spot in the yard. The leaves didn’t drop, I kind of harvested the worst of them. Protecting does seem to make a huge difference.
I have to agree. Protecting it from the cold wind and providing a favorable microclimate will largely determine success growing Camellia sinensis, at least around our hardiness zones. I hope mine can get established well before nature really puts it to the test.
How was the tea that you made - did you end up being able to drink it? How did you process it? I had the pleasure of visiting a really big organic tea plantation in China in 2011, I remember it stretched for about as far as I could see, some of it was grown terraced on a big mountain. I never even thought about asking what variety they were growing or obtaining seeds or cuttings…kicking myself for it now. Then again I only know a few phrases in Mandarin…
well tea is made from new growth before the leaves harden off. So these are not proper tea leaves a the moment. I simply dried them for a couple of days and steeped them in water. The flavor was light and a little fruity. It wasn’t deep and rich like normal tea. In the spring I will harvest fresh leaves and do it properly.
Tony，I have several differnt types of tea. Small Leave, Korean, are suitable for green tea. China and Sochi leaves are bigger, can be made to green tea or fermented tea. Big Leave is Yunnan type and is suitable for fermented tea because of the thick and larger leave, it should be harvested with young branch. I also have tea that does not contain any caffeine in the leaves. For traditional chinese green tea taste, I recommend Small Leave or Dragon Well. For oulong, or other red or black tea, large leave is good. I tasted no difference between Sochi to China. It may due to my taste bud is unable to detect the subtile difference