Autumn: Camellia time
Asian imports add glossy green foliage, rich blooms of colour
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.