Plant japonica camellias
Now that sasanqua camellias and their hybrids (left) are in full bloom, it’s time to be thinking about finding a spot for a japonica camellia or two. They are probably Australia’s best loved winter bloomer, boasting an almost perfect combination of majestic flowers, tidy bushes and dark, shiny, dense foliage, with very few pests or diseases. Thousands of named varieties include single, double and peony flower forms, ranging from pure white to soft pink to full red.
‘Desire’ is an incredibly beautiful double variety that has long-lasting blooms with white to pale blush-pink petals, edged with deeper pink. ‘Lovelight’ is one of the best performing pure white japonicas, with large blooms that continue up to September, while ‘Grand Marshall’ displays large, vivid red, informal double blooms.
Japonica camellias bloom quite well in the shade, and actually prefer dappled shade, as they can suffer from sunburn. They make delightful screens and hedges, and grow well in pots. You need to keep them well watered after planting, but once established they are surprisingly drought tolerant. Keep well mulched with a mix of straw and compost, and fertilise with camellia food in spring.