The Tale of Camellia, Queen of the Sun

(A story told in tweets, reprinted here in the order they appeared.)

Once upon a time, there was a Japanese tea tree. Like all Japanese tea trees, her name was Camellia sinensis, "Camellia" to her friends.

Camellia was adopted by a family who loved her on first sight. They knew she would grow up to be tall, shapely and beautiful.

Carefully, the family dug a hole 2X wider and 2X deeper than Camellia's root ball. They set her gently in a bed of well-composted leaves.

Camellia thrived in the lovely spot her family picked for her. Sheltered from winter winds, shaded from summer sun, she grew and grew.

In Camellia's fourth year with the family, she felt a great stirring within herself. It was like nothing she had ever felt before!

As spring warmed into summer, the tips of her branches tingled, swelling with a delicious, heavy ache. Camellia trembled in anticipation.

On a bright day in early summer, the breeze caressed Camellia's branches and she burst forth into blossom. White petals exploded in the air!

For a season, Camellia was the happiest of Japanese tea trees. Graceful and curvy, her incandescent blossoms smelled of cinnamon and lemon.

But then...

... tragedy struck.

The great silver maple, which had shaded her from the morning sun, choked, withered, and died. In a single season, she was struck down.

Camellia hardly had time to weep for the loss of her friend the silver maple when an even greater tragedy intruded on her world.

The fine old pin oak, the tall, spreading giant that towered over all the trees in the yard, the heart of the garden... was dying.

From halfway around the world it came: a disease that struck without mercy at maples and oaks alike. It choked them, killing from within.

Camellia , who had always been a little afraid of the great old oak, whispered up into his dying, bare branches, "Does it... does it hurt?"

The oak, who had seen many, many young trees come and go, looked down on Camellia and said, "No, my child. As I die, I make way for you."

When the trucks came, the men rose up high and cut into the kindly old giant. Chainsaws roared and tore at his flesh, rending him into dust.

Alone, Camellia shook with fear for the future, and wept.

Without her friend the silver maple, the cold spring winds tore at her. Without her protector the pin oak, the summer sun burned her.

The spot her family had chosen for her was no longer an oasis, no longer a sheltered and protected Eden.

It was a killing ground.

Her leaves curled and fell. Her spring blossoms withered without opening. Her branches dried, cracked and died.

Would it be another season, she thought, or another two? How long can I last? I thirst so, the hunger for cooling water so insatiable!

Although her family, who loved her as they had loved the cheerful silver maple and the majestic pin oak, tried to help her, they couldn't.

If Camellia were given a steady supply of water through the dreadfully hot, dry, bright summer, she might cool herself and survive.

Alas, the family had no money for in-ground sprinkler systems or lawn care services. And when they left on vacation, Camellia suffered so!

One day, the patriarch of the family that owned Camellia , decided that he would not let summer sun take his beloved Japanese tea tree.

But how could he save her with what little he had? No money to speak of, certainly. Only love for his tree and a fine, clever mind.

He thought and thought, consulting his gardening books and his engineering manuals and delving deep into the wisdom of the Internet.

When he spent a clear April day trimming away Camellia's topmost branches, dead and dry, he knew he had to act soon.

With a $9.89 plastic trash can from Home Depot, Camellia's owner set out to defy the Sun and his terrible summer heat.

Carefully, lovingly, thinking all the while of Camellia and her evapotranspiration potential at full insolation in a USDA Zone 7, he acted.

A 3/4" wide-auger drill bit, operated carefully, cut a clean hole in the plastic trash can.

A 2" section of old garden hose (which he had saved in his workshop for just such tasks) fitted into the hole cleanly.

A slathering of waterproof, hard-set plumber's epoxy made the joint water-tight. A hose repair fitting made the job complete.

Camellia , who knew nothing of hoses and clamps, epoxies, drill bits or basement workshops, could nevertheless feel her owner's love for her.

"When the epoxy sets hard," Camellia's owner said to himself, "I shall attach the rest of the homebrew drip-feed irrigation system."

"Camellia will have a steady, slow trickle of water through the hottest part of the summer, and she will live. I swear: SHE WILL LIVE!"

In the yard, Camellia, like all trees, knew when someone loved her. Though her once-shaded oasis was now bright, hot and sunny, she did not fear.

Her owner loved her. Camellia knew this from the tips of her branches down to the fine hairs on her uttermost roots.

In the warm sunshine of a Philadelphia springtime, Camellia stretched her blossoms upward and got ready for summer.

The End.

(Note: this story originally appeared in my twitter feed on Sunday, April 29, 2012, beginning with this tweet. Corrected for typos, spacing and Latin declensions.)

UPDATE: Learn Camellia's fate! See pictures of the device I built to save her! Click this link!


  1. This was a really nice use of Twitter for the formulation of fiction, Tony. With the way blogs have shortened expected paragraphs it doesn't even look curiously formatted unless you point out what happened.


Thank you for leaving a comment. The staff at Landless will treat it with the same care that we would bestow on a newly hatched chick. By the way, no pressure or anything, but have you ever considered subscribing to Landless via RSS?