Camellia do well in our hillside patch with its ancient mix of earth – what Beechworth vignerons call greywacke, sandstone, mudstone and shale.
From it we often grub up pieces of rock with later comers: shards of blue-and-white china, mostly Willow pattern, distinctive brown-black pickling pot, a coin or token and rusted hatchet-heads – remnants of the colonial gold rush on the creek below the house. It’s finders’ ground.
And out of this, three years ago, came a small forest of camellia seedlings below a few robust C. japonica struck from their Camberwell garden parents about 40 years earlier.
‘Never grow, throw them out,’ an old gardener told me. Last week, heavy with fat buds, one of the few we kept – now romping away in large terracotta pots – put out its first bloom.