Now that autumn has truly started leaving the last of the summer warmth behind, we didn’t expect to find Rosita Missoni’s garden in Sumirago still in full bloom. This is mostly thanks to its magnificent camellias: the sasanqua, or Yuletide camellia, is found in both China and Japan and can be found at an altitude of up to 900 metres.
Known for its beautiful large white or dark pink flowers, this evergreen shrub has a long history of cultivation in Japan for practical rather than decorative reasons: its leaves are used to make tea, while the seeds and nuts are used to make tea seed oil, a highly caloric oil used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and cosmetic purposes.
In modern gardens, the Yuletide camellia is valued for its handsome glossy green foliage and the potent fragrance of its flowers, which mixes nicely with the smell of chimney smoke and damp leaves that is so typical of early autumn.
On to another Asian plant: the fuzzy, pretty Japanese plum or loquat. Its tiny, fragrant white flowers turn into succulent yellow fruits in the spring; however, when in bloom, the nectar-rich Japanese plum is the bees’ saving grace. The fruit’s seeds may be used to make a liqueur known as Nespolino (from “nespola”, the Italian word for the fruit), but be careful, they contain small doses of cyanide.
The dark green leaves of the Viburnum Fragrans turn red-purple in preparation for the winter, but their dainty, heavily-scented flowers hang in thick clusters of delicate tubular-shaped pink blooms. It flowers from November to March, when the flowers turn into bright red (and poisonous) fruits.
And finally, one of the most beautiful sights of the cold season: the elegant, fascinating Bourbon rose known by the name of La Reine Victoria. It flowers all through the season, and its perfect, cup-shaped blooms give out the most exquisite scent. No other flower holds a candle to its charm.