Micro-Season: “The First Camellia Blossoms” (2022)

We have entered the micro-season of “The First Camellia Blossoms”.  This is the first micro-season of the mini-season of First Winter.  The micro-seasons within First Winter  are:

  • The First Camellia Blossoms (Nov. 8- Nov 12)
  • The Earth First Freezes (Nov. 13 – Nov 17)
  • The Daffodil Flowers (Nov 18 – Nov 22)

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

As a way to celebrate this season, we will learn about the camellia flower and its symbolism.  Then we will read camellia-themed haiku from Issa, Basho, Buson, and Shiki.


The Camellia Flower

The Camellia is an evergreen shrub or bush that is native to eastern and southern Asia.  The camellia is a member of the larger Theaceae family of plants, which is also known as the “tea family”(2).   There are more than 220 different species of camellia and about 3,000 different hybrids.(1)

The camellia plant can grow up to 66 feet (20 m) tall.(1) The leaves of the plant have serrated edges and are usually glossy.  The flowers are usually large with 5 to 9 petals.  The colors of the flowers range from white to red.  There is also a yellow-flowered camellia, or golden camellia, which is very unique because it only grows in parts of southern China and Vietnam.(3)

Uses Of The Camellia Flower

Camellia japonica is one of the most popular species of camellia. Its seeds can be pressed to make camellia oil and it can it is used to prepare traditional anti-inflammatory medicines.

Camellia sinensis is used to produce a variety of teas.  White tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, and black tea can all be produced from variants of Camellia sinensis.  The different colors of the teas are dependent on the variation in the oxidation of the tea leaves during preparation.(4)

Camellia oleifer is used to create sweet-tasting cooking oil.(1)   Other species of camellia are also used to produce cooking oils, but Camellia oleifer is the most common. 

The Symbolism of the Camellia

Depending on your location, the symbolism of the camellia flower varies.  

Alicia Joy writes in Culture Trip that the camellia “were very popular with nobles during the Edo Period. Among warriors and samurai, the red camellia symbolized a noble death. Otherwise, the red camellia means love. However, they don’t make good presents for people who are sick or injured because of the way the flowers “behead” themselves when they die.”(5)

The florists at FTD.com further explain that camellia flowers may also symbolize affection or admiration depending on their color. They suggest that you to give white camellias to those that you adore.  Give pink camellias, which symbolize a longing for someone, are given to someone who is missed.  While the red camellias, which symbolize love in multiple cultures, should be given to someone that you would like to express your desire and passion for.(6)

Photo by AV RAW on Pexels.com
Camellia photo by AV RAW

Seasonal Haiku

Interestingly, the World Kigo Database puts the camellia, or Tsubaki as it is called in Japan, as a spring kigo. Dr. Greve explains that Camellia japonicas actually bloom in early spring. However, the “sazanka”, or Camellia sasanquain, blooms in the fall.  Camellia Sasanqua, more commonly known as the Mountian Tea Plant, only grows in the western parts of Japan. 

With the seasonal variations of the camellia in mind, let’s read some haiku!

Camellias in winter

Issa

without seeing sunlight
the winter camellia
blooms
(translated by David Lanoue)

Shiki

winter camellia
I wish I could offer it
to the sooty Buddha
(retrieved from World Kigo Database)

Buson

A camellia flower seen through the trees — the hunter’s moon
(translated by Allan Persinger)

The Hunter’s Moon is the full moon that follows the Harvest Moon.  The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the September Equinox.


Camellias in Spring

Basho

opposing leaves
the flowers of the camellia
are indifferent 
(translated by Jane Reichhold)
come closer
to look at the vase
of plum and camellia 
(translated by Jane Reichhold)

Buson

Unfolding at the
hand of the glass polisher:
a camellia!
(retrieved from Mcfadden’s “Yosa Buson: Haiku Master”)
Falling in the dark
deep down into the old well
a camellia 
(retrieved from “Haiku of Yosa Buson” TAO)

Shiki

Someone dropped
Or dropped by itself on the street
The flower of camellia.
(retrieved from Masterpiece of Japanese Culture)

A Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references camellias. Bonus points if you can place your haiku in winter!

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write! 


Resources

  1. “Camellia”; Wikipedia
  2. “Theaceae”; Wikipedia
  3. “Yellow Camellia Species”; International Camellia Society
  4. “Camellia sinensis”; Wikipedia
  5. Alicia Joy; Hanakotoba: The Secret Meanings Behind 9 Flowers in Japan; CultureTrip
  6. FTD.Com; Camellia Meaning and Symbolism
  7. “Camellia-tsubaki”; World Kigo Database

Issa’s haiku were retrieved from the World Kigo Database.  Basho’s haiku were retrieved from “Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations” editor: Gábor Terebess. Buson’s haiku were retrieved from “Haiku of Yosa Buson” collected by Terebess Asia Online (TAO), and Edward McFadden’s article “Yosa Buson: Haiku Master” which is published in the Kyoto Journal.  Shiki’s haiku was retrieved from Masterpiece of Japanese Culture.

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58 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The First Camellia Blossoms” (2022)

Add yours

  1. So glad to see camellia flowers blooming 1st winter, so beautiful view 🌷🙏♥️There winter starting
    Celebrations started and here in Malaysia morning shine ,evening rain like boring season moving on 👏
    So cold season here 💭camellia flowers here gardens can see ,very bright colours and so many varieties
    We can view 🌷🙏😍thank you for sharing and grace wishes 🌷🙏♥️🌷

    1. Hi Thattamma, Thank you for sharing what is happening in Malaysia right now. I like your statement, “boring season moving on”. What a fun way to talk about the change of seasons. Have a great day and enjoy the flowers.

      1. Because of rain so boring , now also dark ☁️
        Here no changing season , no Winter no Autumn
        Rainy season and hot season can see 😍👍🏻
        Liking what we do is happiness 😊👍🏻♥️🙏

    1. Hi Ashley, It was unseasonably warm here too, and we are scheduled for a weekend of heavy rain. Our regional climates seem to be tracking each other this year!

      1. Actually, we are a little south in latitude. 44.54° N. I think the US/Canada border that is the farthest point north in the state is at 45.

  2. Basho shines again. Plum and Camellia – what a wonderful arrangement.

    Here’s one for you:

    The blossoms settle
    Softly, at peace, on the snow.
    Awake Camellia

    1. Yes, Basho’s haiku is great! I really like the”come closer” line. I am not sure why that intruiges me, but I am drawn into the poem.
      Thanks for sharing your piece and figuring out how to get the camellia in winter. Well done. Thanks for sharing your work!

      1. Yes, they look similar. Looking into the taxonomic classification between roses and camellia’s it seem if they separate from each other pretty high up in that system. The tea thing is interesting, I didn’t know that about oxidation levels.

      2. There is also Rose Hip tea…
        ‘Rosehip tea is an herbal tea made from the pseudo-fruits of the rose plant. It has a delicate, floral flavor that’s slightly sweet with a distinct tart aftertaste. Found just below the rose petals, rose hips are small, round, and typically red or orange.’

      3. Ah, rose hip tea! I think about that every autumn as I walk by our wild rose plants at the edge of the yard. I have yet to take the next step to make the tea. Maybe this year?!

      4. “How do you process rosehips for tea?
        Boil a pot of water and pour the hot water over the rose hips. If using fresh rose hips, use ¼ cup of hips to 1 cup of water. If using dried rose hips, crush them up and use 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water. Let the tea steep for 15 minutes covered, and then strain out the pulp.”

        You’ll tell me how this works out, please –
        I don’t grow roses. 🙂

  3. bought from those
    forced into internment
    60,000 camellias

    I immediately thought of the Descanso Gardens where I have gone to see their 19 acres of camellias in bloom in the winter. I was quite surprised to find this on their website:

    The Camellia Garden is the oldest introduced collection at Descanso and has its roots in the camellia plantation established by E. Manchester Boddy in the 1930s. A Los Angeles newspaper owner and entrepreneur, Boddy established the plantation as a commercial venture in 1937 to provide flowers and foliage for the floral trade. When people of Japanese heritage were forced into internment camps during World War II, Boddy purchased 60,000 camellia plants from two Japanese-owned nurseries in the San Gabriel Valley. These plants, mostly japonicas, were the foundation of today’s collection.

    1. Hi Eavonka, Thanks you so much for adding this to the conversation. I have never been to Descanso Gardens, but now I have many questions I now have about it and the way this transaction happened. There is probably a lot more to this story.
      Thanks again for sharing this information and writing a very impactful haiku.

      1. I am also filled with questions. As with so many things, from great tragedy can still come beauty.

  4. Eavonka, thanks for sharing that information on the Descanso Gardens. I knew nothing about them.
    Jules, great word play in the ‘ku and riposte, too (but then I am a fan of puns).

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