Stuartia pseudocamellia is another of those fantastic trees that has it all. Magnificent flowers, attractive flaking bark and fabulous autumn colour. What more could you want? But they are slow growers and Hugh Jonson suggests you plant one without delay and forget about moving house. Despite their beauty, I rarely see them so it was a real pleasure when I found a group of three the other day, growing at Trehane Nursery, Wimborne, where my daughter was working picking blueberries (another super autumn colour plant).
The Stuartias are in the Tea Family and are native to eastern Asia and the United States, but only one reaches tree size here - the Stuartia pseudocamellia (or Deciduous Camellia) of Japan where it reaches 60 feet - introduced here in about 1880. They are named after John Stuart, Earl of Bute (1713-92) an amateur botanist and chief advisor to Augusta, Princess Dowager of Wales, when she founded the Botanic Garden at Kew, and was Prime Minister under George III. A portrait of the Earl at Kenwood House featured an American species of Stuartia which was sent to Linnaeus with a dedication in which the family name was mis-spelt "Stewart" and Linnaeus went on to describe the genus in 1746 as Stewartia. The mis-spelling was emended by L'Heritier in 1785 but Linnaeus's mistake has taken root and the two spellings are regarded as synonyms. I find it most frequently spelt Stewartia in texts but will stick with Stuartia simply because W. J. Bean does so in his Trees & Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles - the tree man's bible.
They like a sheltered sunny position and prefer an ericacious soil but if you have any lime free soil it's worth giving it a try. That said, some say it can be hard to establish - I planted three several years ago and they all died; but if the truth be known that was more due to the fact that while I wasn't looking they were swamped and shaded out by nettles, brambles and other weeds, rather than anything else.