Gordonia axillaris.
Gordonia axillaris.

Give gordonias a go in your garden

I know we don't have dramatic seasonal change here, or at least not to the extent that is experienced in cooler climates. The foliage on some of our deciduous trees and shrubs will develop lovely autumn tonings before falling, leaving the bare branches through winter to burst into growth come spring.

But much of our seasonal change is marked by flowering rather than foliage.

My gordonia trees have just started to bloom, and that means that we have definitely entered autumn, despite the lingering heat. Gordonia axillaris is not as well-known nor as widely grown as it deserves to be. Gordonias are very tough, adaptable small trees or large shrubs bearing masses of large white flowers with prominent bright yellow stamens.

The flowers tend to fall "sunny side up", giving the gordonia its common name, the fried egg tree. The flowering season is long, from about March right through until August/September. There aren't many other trees or shrubs that flower for that length of time.

The glossy leaves are quite long and slender, beautifully red or bronze when new and through the cooler months, and then becoming deep green as they mature.

They are closely related to camellias, and the flowers do bear a close resemblance to Setsugekka, one of the most popular of the Camellia sasanqua varieties.