Pot­ted his­tory of camel­lias

Amateur Gardening - - Your Gardening Week -

CAMEL­LIAS have been grown in the Far East for cen­turies, and many species can be found in the wild wood­land ar­eas of China, Ja­pan, Malaysia and the Hi­malayas. They were first brought to Europe in the 18th cen­tury when they were con­sid­ered highly or­na­men­tal, ex­otic and del­i­cate and were grown as non­hardy plants, of­ten in glasshouses.

Since these orig­i­nal Camel­lia species – mostly C. japon­ica, sasan­qua and retic­u­lata – were first cul­ti­vated, around 5,000 dif­fer­ent types have been bred.

There are over 260 species and one of the rarest is the golden Camel­lia chrysan­tha, which is found in the rain­forests of China and Viet­nam. This beau­ti­ful shrub, which pro­duces golden yel­low blooms, is un­der threat in the wild as its habi­tat is be­ing cleared. Sadly it does not suit the Bri­tish cli­mate, while the few

yel­low hy­brid camel­lias that are avail­able here, such as C. japon­ica ‘Brush­field’s Yel­low’, tend to be much paler, verg­ing on white.

In China, camel­lias were prized for their fo­liage, and the sinen­sis species is the source of the tea leaves that gen­er­ated cen­turies of trade be­tween Europe and the Far East. Still har­vested to­day, this camel­lia is specif­i­cally bred for its fo­liage, not its small white flow­ers – so don’t ex­pect to make a cuppa from the dried leaves of the or­na­men­tal va­ri­ety in your back gar­den!

Camel­lia chrysan­tha

Camel­lia sinen­sis is grown to make tea

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