Winter Storm Izzy = Lazy Day on the Farm

We are twelve hours into our winter event. I’ve already watched a movie on Netflix, baked cookies, finished a number of chores around the house and NFL is on for the next few hours. Since I haven’t taken very many videos of the koi, today seemed to be a good day. I posted a two minute video of the koi swimming around their pool on Youtube here. All of the koi have been doing well the last few months. They have been eating steadily until the pool temperature started dropping. I stopped offering any food at 55°F. It’s now 50°F and they seem like they are hungry but I’m counting on the algae growing in the pool to tide them over. Everyone’s skin looks clean, swimming well and no odd behavior that might signal a health concern. I have two koi at a friend’s house and I am sure they are loving the 72°F heated pond and continued feeding. One is Akemi, a GinRin Asagi that I believe I will have to rename Romeo…the other is a little Isa showa, no name.

The pond work is stalled but pond digger loves to dig around for history. He recently found some 1942 license plates, pool balls and the usual assortment of glass bottles. We’re secretly hoping that some day we’ll find a glass jar with some old coins. It doesn’t appear to us that anyone buried ‘treasure’ on the property, just random trash heaps. The ground at the base of large trees is always a good bet to find liquor pints. No evidence of moonshining activity but who knows.

A few days ago we returned to Brightside Bamboo, Chapel Hill, NC to pick up some more Phyllostachys edulis, the mōsō bamboo. Unfortunately they did not have any of the smaller containers ready. We’ll have to return in about three months. They did have some Phyllostachys vivax, the Chinese timber bamboo. It’s very similar to the Japanese timber bamboo (which we were hoping to get, also not in stock). This bamboo grows 40-70 feet tall in zone 7 and is pretty aggressive in full sun. We’ll be planting the two specimens on each side of the road that enters the center hayfield. While bamboo is an invasive plant, they are good for the climate, a source of food and in many areas of the world a resource for economic development. I just like the droopy look of the foliage and the rustling of the leaves.

Co-located with the bamboo nursery is Camellia Forest with at least eight (probably more) greenhouses of camellias. This nursery regularly hosts seminars on how to grow tea and processing tea. I walked around with David Parks the camellia expert and plant hunter. Camellias are a family business and he took many trips with his father to gather varieties from around the world. His wife Christine, co-wrote a book “Grow Your Own Tea – the complete guide to cultivating, harvesting and preparing.” I selected a few camellia japonica which will all bloom while they are in the greenhouse. They will be planted mid to late March near our future koi pond.

Camellia japonica v. Shibori kingyo – White blooms with red and pink streaks/stripes. This variety originated in Niigata prefecture in 1971.

Camellia japonica v. Sea foam – Very large ivory white blooms.

Camellia japonica v. Snow swirl – Very large, pure white blooms.

Camellia japonica v. Tama vino – Deep wine red blooms with narrow white border.

I will have to do some more reading about camellias since they are a very southern flower. I really don’t know if any of the ornamentals I purchased have a fragrance. Growing things on the farm is always an experiment.

I also pick up some more camellia sinensis – the tea plants. Variety assamica is used for black teas. Variety large leaf for white tea as it develops very large buds. Variety Jinhua – not sure, probably a green tea. Variety Taiwan – also the same story. Jinhua and Taiwan have been named for where David collected specimens to grow. Variety Taiwan was collected in a mountain village Chia Tsao at a small tea plantation. Variety Sochi comes from tea research stations in the Sochi region of Russia, the eastern side of the Black Sea. So my personal tea plantation will be about 25 plants which produces just about enough tea for one tea lover on an annual basis.

The new camellias and nurturing the peonies from Minnesota have given me an idea for the neglected landscape between the future koi pond and the garage. I have really let it go for the last 18 months and one of my 2022 goals is to put some effort into this garden. I know it will grow peonies (there are two or three there already) and the three evergreens seem to be dwarf versions. So my koi friends might appreciate the plants I will be using to reimagine this garden. I will be putting in a few flowering cherry trees (sakura), camellias japonica (tsubaki), and peonies (botan). Maybe the plants will inspire my koi to grow in such a way to be competitive for koi show awards named Sakura, Tsubaki and Botan. These are awards for the varieties not considered among the top three (gosanke varieties – Kohaku, Showa and Sanke). So I’m not sure the rhyme or reason but the varieties are lumped in the following manner:

Sakura Award – goshiki, kawarigoi, ginrin A, ginrin B, kujaku

Tsubaki Award – hikarimoyo, tancho, goromo, doitsu, kumonryu

Botan Award – hikarimuji, asagi, shusui, bekko, hikari utsuri, hi utsuri, ki utsuri, mujimono

Do I think the plants will influence koi development? I’ll try just about anything in the very competitive Carolinas koikeeping community. Maybe my future garden will send plant vibes to the koi — Ganbatte! 😂

So it’s back to more snow and Netflix for me. Thankfully in a day or two, all the white stuff will be gone.