BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine

Camellia rosthornia­na ‘Elina’


Jack Aldridge Jack Aldridge is a plant expert and horticultu­rist at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, with a specialist interest in woody plants. He is a contributo­r to @ids.treesandsh­rubsonline, the Instagram account of a major online resource on woody plants, and posts his gardening experience­s as @jackaldrid­ge They may have su ered from an image problem in recent years, seen by some as old-fashioned, but no-one could call this camellia variety anything other than beautiful, says Jack Aldridge

Camellias are often confined to woodland gardens, where they make substantia­l shrubs with large flowers.

In terms of appearance and adaptabili­ty, though, Camellia rosthornia­na ‘Elina’ could not be more different.

Weeping branches give it an elegant, shapely look. With very small leaves for a camellia, its lustrous foliage is neat all year round, complement­ed by bronze-flushed new growth in spring. This provides the perfect backdrop to the small, bell-shaped flowers, which appear from February to April. It is even effective before this, each branch being bejewelled with tiny, pearl-like flower buds.

Eventually making a shrub no more than 1.5m across, with a slower growth rate than other camellias, it would also make a good container plant. Camellias need an acidic soil to thrive, so for places with alkaline soil, pot growing would be the ideal approach, using a mix of peat-free ericaceous compost and soil-based John Innes No.3. Potted plants would benefit from regular feeding through the growing season with an ericaceous liquid feed. While we often think camellias need woodland conditions, this is not the case, although the plant would benefit from some shade and shelter, such as a north-facing wall.

There are a couple of other camellia species with small flowers and elegant, narrow foliage, of which C. transnokoe­nsis is perhaps most similar, making a larger, more upright shrub. Also, compact varieties of C. lutchuensi­s with small, sweetly-scented flowers are worth looking out for, including ‘Quintessen­ce’.

These charming shrubs could not be more different from the camellias we are so familiar with, and they may just be the ones that make you reconsider growing this spring-flowering evergreen genus we all think we know so well.

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