“Middlemist’s Red,” also known as the spring rose, is widely regarded as
the world’s rarest flower, as just two of these precious plants exist,
one in New Zealand and another in the UK.
Named after John Middlemist, who collected it in China in 1804, the
Middlemist’s Red camelia was always a rare flower that could only be
found in the stately English homes of well-off families who could afford
to buy them. Middlemist himself donated his specimen to Kew Gardens, but
it somehow vanished, along with the others throughout London and the
whole of the UK, with the exception of one place. By 1823, the Chiswick
House & Gardens, a stately home in England, became the only place in the
UK where a Middlemist’s Red could be admired.
How the Middlemist’s Red was wiped out from its native home in China, or
how one specimen found its way to New Zealand and survived there for
nearly two centuries, are mysteries that we will probably never find the
answers to. What we do know, however, is that this ultra-rare camelia
variant is extremely rare and valuable.
Although the word “red” is literally in its name, Middlemist’s Red is
actually a deep pink color. The New Zealand specimen can be found at
Treaty House in Waitangi, where it was reportedly planted in 1833.
Officially, New Zealand’s Treaty House and the Chiswick House & Gardens
in the UK, are the only two places where you can see a Middlemist’s Red
plant, but that’s not technically correct, because the UK side has been
giving out clippings to people rich enough to buy them.
They may have been very selective about who receives a piece of this
living treasure, but in the end, it comes down to price, so it’s not all
that surprising that the latest recipient of a clipping from the
UK-based Middlemist’s Red plant was Sky Gardens by Rafal, a high-rise in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Geraldine King, the gardener at Chiswick House & Gardens, said that even
a couple of centuries ago, when the Duke of Devonshire owned Chiswick
House & Garden, he sold Middlemist’s Red clippings for the equivalent of
about £3,200 ($4,400).
“We’re quite fussy about who gets them,” King said. “The plant we’re
giving to Saudi Arabia is one of the first cuttings we took from the