WINTER FLOWERS need to be magnificent, longblooming and totally, gloriously trouble-free. In other words, they need to be camellias.
Camellias are forgotten as we rely more on florists’ blooms than home-grown posies to give friends. Camellias don’t survive as long as liliums or hot-house roses when they’re cut, but if you buy a suitable variety, they’ll look lovely for a week or two. In the winter garden, camellias are unsurpassed.
THE SIX RULES FOR STUNNING CAMELLIAS
Choose the right variety. There are camellias for every climate and garden in New Zealand, from sub-tropical to the coolest of mountain tops. Ask your local nursery for the ones that suit your climate.
Feed with camellia food after blooming, water in thoroughly and mulch well. Camellias are droughttolerant once established. Prune only to keep a neat shape. Otherwise, just enjoy them. The only other time you need to get out your pruning saw is to totally rejuvenate an elderly camellia.
Stick to one colour or harmonising shades. ‘Pink’ can be a thousand colours when it comes to camellias and some clash horribly.
Hunt out fragrant camellias or ones that make excellent cut flowers – they do exist!
Jackie French extols the virtues of the humble camellia and tells you what to do in the garden in July.
Let yourself fall in love. The best camellia to grow is the one you instantly adore because then you’ll feed and water it and, every year, glory in its flowers.
Magic spots for camellias
Try a neatly trimmed hedge of camellias instead of a front fence.
Espalier camellias to turn a boring wall or fence into a thing of beauty.
Fill giant hanging baskets with prostrate camellias and hang them outside your windows to enjoy them indoors and out.
Place two giant pots of camellias either side of the front door.
Fill dramatic black or earthenware ceramic pots with camellias as a hedge along the front of the house or along the driveway, and then move them to a less obvious spot when their flowering has finished.
Brighten that dull shaded area along the side of the house – fill it with camellias and winter glory.
There is a camellia for every climate and garden.