Keep your camel­lias camel­lias look­ing look­ing cool cool

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME -

TO see beau­ti­ful fat and healthy camel­lia fl ower buds drop­ping off with­out even open­ing can be heart­break­ing, but it hap­pens at this time ev­ery year.

“Balling” is a com­mon prob­lem with cer­tain va­ri­eties of Ja­panese camel­lias. Th­ese are the ones that pro­duce such an abun­dance of fl ower buds they have to dump some, so shed­ding the ex­cess is per­fectly nat­u­ral.

They can also drop off if morn­ing frosts set­tle on fl ower buds and then the fi rst rays of sun­light quickly warm them. Luck­ily there are al­ways plenty of buds left be­hind to pro­duce ex­cel­lent dis­plays.

The most com­mon camel­lia dis­or­der at this time of the year is “petal stain­ing”.

As buds open, the mar­gins of the fl ow­ers ap­pear scorched and most of those which are fully ex­posed to the ele­ments turn brown, com­pletely ru­in­ing the dis­play.

With cer­tain white, pale pink or even deepred camel­lia fl ow­ers with ex­tra- thin, tightly packed petals, it hap­pens ev­ery year.

This dis­or­der is al­ways much worse af­ter pe­ri­ods of drench­ing, late- win­ter rains.

This un­sightly petal stain­ing is not a dis­ease. It is caused by rain seep­ing into fl ower buds and set­tling be­tween petals, just as they are about to open.

It is this soak­ing that causes ex­posed petals to star to rot and go brown. Ex­am­ine other blooms closely and you’ll no­tice that those that are free of any stain­ing are usu­ally deep within the fo­liage and well shel­tered from rain splash.

A sim­ple way to stop camel­lia stain­ing is to fi x a sheet of clear plas­tic loosely over the top of vul­ner­a­ble plants, sup­ported by a few long stakes.

Erect the shel­ter be­fore the buds start to swell be­fore open­ing. It may not look pretty, but it stops buds from be­com­ing sat­u­rated.

An al­ter­na­tive is to grow sus­cep­ti­ble camel­lia va­ri­eties in tubs so they can be dragged un­der cover when threat­ened by pe­ri­ods of heavy rain­fall.

An­other frus­trat­ing prob­lem hap­pens af­ter some va­ri­eties of camel­lia fi nally come into full bloom. As the fl ow­ers fully open, many fall to the ground af­ter a few days while still in­tact. This is a com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tic of many Ja­panese camel­lias.

Many ex­perts be­lieve Ja­panese breeders have, over many years, de­lib­er­ately bred this pre­ma­ture blos­som fall into many camel­lias be­cause they en­joyed see­ing the ground lit­tered with colour­ful petals. I rather like this too, but there’s noth­ing wrong with care­fully pick­ing up in­tact fl ower heads and pin­ning them back on the branches.

A fa­mil­iar camel­lia dis­or­der in Tas­ma­nia is leaf- bleach­ing, as many ex­posed leaves turn an un­healthy green- yel­low. It is a com­mon mis­take to as­sume this is just iron defi ciency caused by al­ka­line soil con­di­tions.

Yet in many cases this dis­or­der is noth­ing more than ex­ces­sive ex­po­sure to strong, ex­tra- bright sun­light. Those leaves deep within the shel­ter of the canopy and out of the sun usu­ally re­main a healthy green.

Camel­lias that be­come badly bleached are al­most al­ways planted out in full sun in the mid­dle of an ex­posed lawn.

This is an easy one to solve be­cause th­ese poor, mis­er­able camel­lias – even large spec­i­mens – are eas­ily trans­planted to a more shel­tered spot at any time of the year.

This bleach­ing prob­lem dis­ap­pears once plants are moved into a shadier place where they re­main well pro­tected from de­struc­tive af­ter­noon sun­light.

There is an­other type of leaf blem­ish that is more com­mon with retic­u­lata camel­lias.

Some leaves in­clud­ing those in shade de­velop bright yel­low, ir­reg­u­lar- shaped blotches. They look a bit un­sightly, but are noth­ing more than ev­i­dence of an in­fec­tion from rel­a­tively harm­less leaf viruses, prob­a­bly the same types that cause var­ie­ga­tion.

In most cases the dis­ease does not ap­pear to weaken the growth of the plants or re­duce the beauty of the blooms.

Camel­lias are not heavy feed­ers. Most need only a sin­gle ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­tiliser ev­ery year.

The best time is right now and a sim­ple com­bi­na­tion of blood and bone mixed into sheep ma­nure makes a per­fect mulch, spread in a thick cir­cle around each plant.

STOP THE ROT: Camel­lias need shel­ter; too much sun or rain can turn their fl ow­ers from bright to bro­ken.

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