Friday, July 25, 2014
My long-longed-for plant
I have wanted a tea plant for more than five years and I am delighted that I now have one planted in my front yard. I have checked on it every day I was here, expect for the days I have been on vacation. Every time I examine it (for signs of bugs, or disease, or anything) I am so happy that I finally have the plant I have wanted for so long.
It's about waist high and I am excited that it is doing so well. I have struggled to have a plant like this, buying seeds online and even trying to propagate one, TWICE, from springs I received from my friend Angela McRae who owned one already but now has two since she purchased one at at the same time.
It took a new business in town, Southern Roots on Hwy 29 in Newnan and a visit to our Crossroads Garden Club by the owner, Bob Lott, to finally find what I had been looking for so long. Lott and his wife Sherry opened the business last year after retiring, and he specializes in southern plants and plants that do well in our area of the south.
As Lott was speaking about his plants, he mentioned that as far as he knew, he was the only person in the area that had a "tea plant." I haven't seen one for sale locally and had only seen the tea plant or Camellia sinensis at Hills and Dales estate in Lagrange. I had even asked if they could propagate one for me but even though they were gracious enough to take my name, they never contacted me. I guess they had too much work on that large estate, to worry about selling one plant, and I understand that.
The Camellia sinensis originated from China and is grown and exported from many Asian countries. Some tea plantations have their own varieties though all tea comes from the same Camellia sinensis plant. I would imagine that soils might make a difference in the flavor variations, but that is not a scientific supposition, just an opinion of mine because of what I have read. I do know that my favorite black tea comes from the Assam region of India.
The largest tea grower in the United States is located in Charleston, South Carolina, though there are smaller growers in the states of Washington, Alabama, and Hawaii. I don't know if my "tea plant" originated from one of these places but I would guess Alabama or South Carolina. I wish in this case that plants could come with papers to let us know their origin, but they usually don't.
An interesting fact about tea is that black, green, and white tea all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but are processed differently.
Do I plan on making my own tea from my tea leaves? Of course I do. Apparently, springs from a Camellia sinensis should only be harvested when the plant is three years old. I don't know exactly how old my plant is, but it already has seeds should make it old enough for harvesting.
I know that even though I love tea, I have no experience as a taster and might not be able to tell the difference between old leaves and new but I am sure that I will soon be able to harvest. I certainly don't want my tea plant to grow too tall. I have read they get up to 16 feet if not trimmed (or plucked).
I do know that the Camellia sinensis is an acid loving plant and needs plenty of rainfall to produce leaves for tea production so I need to monitor rainfall to make sure my plant is happy enough to produce.
I may even try to grow some plants from seed--I have at least four green ones on the plant. I would love to have my own tea hedge and harvest enough tea for my family.