One of the goals of the USLTG is to spread awareness about US Tea. We begin a series of Featured Grower posts, showcasing the work of tea growers across the country.
Today we welcome our first Featured Grower:
Camellia Forest Nursery.
Name: Camellia Forest Nursery
Grower: David & Christine Parks
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Camellia Forest (www.camforest.com) is a small family-operated retail nursery in Chapel Hill, NC. The Parks Family has been collecting and breeding Camellias for over 50 years, including a wide variety of different species from around the world and the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. They are located in the central North Carolina Piedmont (Zone 7).
Camellia Forest Nursery has been selling tea plants to gardeners and independent growers for over 35 years. Many of the tea plants they offer in the nursery, including both Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica, have been growing in their own family gardens for decades.
The nursery offers a diversity of tea plants for sale, grown both from seed and from clonal propagation. Plants grown from seed are from specimen plants in the Parks Family gardens, and this year will start offering new plants grown from Caucus Mountain Tea seeds imported by USLTG founding member, Nigel Melican.
The plants produced by clonal propagation are from both small and large leaf var sinensis, including standard small and large-leaf Chinese cultivars, and unique selections such as ‘Christine’s Choice’, Sochi, and Rosea Pink tea. All the plants have shown resistance to cold, up to zone 6B, surviving lows this past winter to 3°F (-16°C) in their North Carolina gardens.
Because of growing demand, Camellia Forest has begun wholesale production to support the needs of US tea farmers. By the end of 2016 they will have at least 30,000 plants. They are also now taking reservations and pre-orders for Fall 2016, to help growers plan ahead for their season.
Pictured leaf and bud sets (clockwise starting at 12 o-clock): ‘Dave’s Fave’, ‘Christine’s Choice’, large leaf sinensis, ‘Fairhope’, small leaf ‘Carolina’, ‘Rosea’ (Pink), “Caucasus Mountain” (Georgian tea seedlings), and Sochi. Note that leaf size varies and depends on many factors – all these pictured are from 1-year potted plants picked on the same day.
Message from the Growers:
We know that growing tea is a long-term commitment and investment, and we are likewise committed to producing healthy plants, already pruned and branching, to help get you off to a good start!” – Christine Parks
Camellia Forest also welcomes visitors to sample handmade teas with Christine, and tour the specimen garden (www.teaflowergardens.com). Saturdays, by appointment, or during our fall celebration: A “Tea for All” Open House (October 17-18).