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.
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.