Au­tumn: Camel­lia time

Asian im­ports add glossy green fo­liage, rich blooms of colour

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - with Ma­ree Cur­ran Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­

Au­tumn is camel­lia time. Th­ese beau­ti­ful and hardy

shrubs bloom from now un­til spring­time, and are one of the eas­i­est things to grow. They love our slightly acid

soil, and our cli­mate is ideal. The glossy green fo­liage looks great year-round, and the flow­ers, rang­ing from white through pinks to deep reds, are among the most beau­ti­ful of all. The flow­ers come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny bell-like minia­tures to exquisitel­y com­plex

for­mal dou­bles up to 20cm across.

Camel­lias orig­i­nated in trop­i­cal and sub-trop­i­cal Asia where

they grow in par­tial shade among mainly ev­er­green trees of the moun­tain­ous ar­eas. They were in­tro­duced to Europe from China in the early 1700s. There are more than 40 different species, and thou­sands of cul­ti­vars. Camel­lia sasan­qua is a fast-grow­ing species na­tive to Ja­pan.

Most sasan­quas have a de­li­ciously spicy, earthy fra­grance, are tol­er­ant of full sun or semi-shade and make a great fea­ture

shrub or hedge. Camel­lia japon­ica, na­tive to China, Ja­pan and Korea, is the

quin­tes­sen­tial camel­lia. Their large, glossy, deep green leaves are sought af­ter by florists, and the flow­ers range from purest white to deep­est red. Al­though we usu­ally think of camel­lias as shrubs grow­ing to about 3m, there are some pros­trate forms. Marge Miller has a low, cas­cad­ing habit and pink flow­ers. Snow, which has been

bred from Marge Mille’, has a sim­i­lar habit and masses of white flow­ers, some­times with a very slight pink blush. Plant th­ese

pros­trate forms as ground­cov­ers, spilling over rock walls, or in tall pots or hang­ing bas­kets. Camel­lias are one of the most ver­sa­tile and hardy of all gar­den shrubs. Sasan­quas make a bril­liant hedge. Camel­lias pre­fer a slightly acid, com­post rich soil in a

semi-shaded po­si­tion, with their shal­low sur­face roots well mulched. Sasan­quas will take full sun, but will need that root

zone to be well pro­tected, and to be wa­tered in dry times. Choose a po­si­tion where the overnight dew will be able to dry be­fore the sun strikes the flow­ers to avoid the un­sightly scorch­ing of the blooms, es­pe­cially with pale coloured va­ri­eties. They make great pot plants, as long as you use a pot­ting mix

that is spe­cially for­mu­lated for camel­lias.

Lime is very bad for camel­lias, so never use it or dolomite.


Bees are at­tracted to this pink camel­lia flower.

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