Like the other camellias in our yard, the tea blooms in the winter time.  I guess that touch of global warming has them blooming just a tad early this year as they usually peak around Christmas time.  Its also the time I usually prune the tea bushes and I think it a shame to just cut the flowers off onto the ground.  The tea blossoms are what you call “multiflora” as like Camellia sasanqua, they have flowers all up and down the secondary wood and open and fall off quickly turning the ground white underneath.  At the same time, the seed pods produced from last years flowers turn brown, crack open and throw tea seeds around under the bushes.  I do not pick up the seeds.

When planning a visit to the tea farm, look at the map here on this web site and notice we are at the end of Lyter Lane.  GPS will go crazy when you get close and turn you out into one of my neighbors fields where there was a road in the early 1900’s.  Then it has you drive around in circles.  Ignore the GPS when you get close and simply drive to the dead end of Lyter Lane, which only goes one way, and pull right up to my house where a sign says “Park Here for Tea Tours.”  Another sign says “Blow Your Horn” because our two dogs don’t bark and I might be asleep on the couch.

And, again, I want to remind you that we are called a “plantation” because we bought this farm as a planned planting for tea production.  We are NOT an antebellum Greek revival two story plantation home (as in Gone With the Wind) with protodoric columns across the front and slave cabins lined up across the back.  That is what lots of our guests think they are going to see in rural south Alabama.  Our small house was built in 1972 and has little rustic charm.  I am questioned about that often as the word plantation has slavery era connotations, and I may have to change our name to “farm” which certainly conveys little charm.  We have a large church camp within a couple miles which will not bring their summer campers to visit because we are called a plantation.  Although I do not find that worrisome, after all, who is missing out?

When you come for a visit, try to be on time.  I brew a pot of tea and get ready for a group about one half hour before the scheduled time so the tea will still be hot.  I know folks are driving off into deepest darkest rural Alabama, and they will not know where they are going and will get here before they realize it.  That is fine within a half hour time.  Also, if lost, can’t make it or change your plans, call us and tell us.  Two weeks ago we set up chairs and tables, brewed two pots of tea for eight people and they did not call or show up.  This has happened before.

I like talking to only two or three people at a time.  It is easier, more personable and a better experience for us all.  I can put three on my golf cart which I drive guests right up to what I am talking about, and take them around to see more types of pruning and plantings.  With four or more we have to walk, only a hundred yards there and back, but its a better tour from the golf cart.  I do not accept large groups, bus tours, school groups, master gardeners or garden clubs.  It is just too much work for us who are keeping our tours in the fun category.  That is also why we do not take mail orders.  It is just not worth it and takes away the keep-it-fun element.

Happy Thanksgiving and you all come to see us!

Donnie Barrett