I recently visited Maple Walk, a remarkable garden in Charlotte created by Tom Nunnenkamp and Lib Jones. They have an extraordinary collection of over 90 Japanese maples and over 25 dogwood species. Among the many other beautiful plants in their garden, one of the most unusual specimens is ‘Chansonette,’ a Camellia sasanqua, several plants of which Tom has ground layered over two or three years into a ten foot wide sea of year round greenery about a foot and a half high.

Whoever heard of a camellia as a ground cover?

‘Chansonette’ is at its most beautiful here in mid-November when its pink blossoms are in full bloom.


Camellia sasanqua ‘Chansonette’

The method Tom uses is relatively simple. As a branch grows out to the side of the plants, he bends it to the ground and fastens it down with coat hanger wire, which is strong enough to hold the branch to the ground until it puts out roots. In this manner the plant spreads.

I have seen camellias beautifully espaliered on walls, fences and arbors, and I have seen them pruned into various shapes (some not so attractive) in other gardens. The form of ‘Chansonette’ at Maple Walk, however, is unique in my experience. I was taken when I first saw it last spring and was delighted when Tom invited me back to see it in bloom.

It is a tribute to his gardening imagination and diligence in continuing to expand his extraordinary creation.


About johnvic8

John Viccellio retired after 24 years in the U. S. Navy and began to dig into gardening when he could finally land in one place. He completed the Master Gardener course in 1992 and has since designed and constructed two of his own gardens. He wrote a monthly garden column for ten years and was a regular contributor to Carolina Gardener magazine. John published his first book, Guess What's in My Garden!, in 2014. He lives in a retirement community in Matthews, NC.
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5 Responses to ‘Chansonette’

  1. Cathy says:

    What a wonderful idea, John. It seems to have been a week for admiring Camellia sasanqua on other people’s blogs, but this is the most original way of growing it I’ve seen, by a long shot. And if it layers that easily, I’m thinking I just have to find a friend who grows it and …


  2. johnvic8 says:

    Thanks, Cathy. I hope you can find that friend.


  3. Steven says:

    Very interesting about spreading it that way. I had read that this camellia gets about 6-8′ wide and so I was hoping to use it as a mass planting ground cover underpinning some cherry trees that I have on a slope along the driveway. I never imagined they could root in from the branching like that as well. Also great to see how dense it already is after just 2-3 years. I wonder what it looks like today.


    • johnvic8 says:

      Thanks for remembering that post so long ago. I saw the camellia last year and it continued to amaze. I hope to visit the garden in a few weeks. If I am able to see it again, I will respond again to your comment.


      • Steven says:

        Thanks for the response, if you do happen to visit please post of a photo. I am very interested to see after so many years how it is doing as a ground cover. There is just so few photos of this camellia, your image on this post is really the only one I have seen that shows what it can look like in a mass planting.


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