Rossendale Free Press

Calming camellias


- DIARMUID Gardening Expert

CAMELLIAS are one of the most beautiful flowering shrubs and are a source of great joy in late winter and early spring when they produce their magnificen­t blossoms.

Some species flower a bit earlier, but they tend to be on the tender side. The best varieties for British gardens are the Williamsii cultivars, raised by breeder John Charles Williams at Caerhays Castle, Cornwall around a hundred years ago.

These are hybrids that combine the best of each parent. They are very hardy, produce fabulous flowers and are free flowering over a long period. This breeding developmen­t helped popularise the camellia and they remain extremely popular today.

However, they are not without their problems and on these pages over the years I have answered many queries about them.

Lack of flowering, sooty leaves and yellowing foliage are the most common bugbears. The yellow foliage can be due to a nutrient deficiency. To flourish and access iron, camellias need to be planted in acidic soil or neutral soil.

If you haven’t got this type of pH, they can be grown very successful­ly in containers.

But you need to remember to feed them ericaceous fertiliser and water with rainwater where possible. Sooty mould appears like black powder on the leaves and is a fungus that grows on the excretions of aphids and scale insects.

You can remove the mould and the offending insects by carefully washing the plant with a soapy water mix.

You will need to keep an eye on aphids returning – check the underside of leaves as well for pests – and keep removing.

There are also plenty of organic sprays that will also help in this regard.

Lack of flowering can arise from a number of conditions. Too much shade is one cause although camellias do like a bit of dappled shade.

They originate from the east –

China, Japan and Korea – where they grow in groups in semiwoodla­nd settings.

Often situated on free draining slopes, they enjoy cool dry winters and plenty of rainfall in spring. Waterloggi­ng in winter will make them very unhappy but plenty of humus or well rotted manure will help with soil structure, drainage and moisture retention.

Ideally site them in light dappled shade which will protect them from the scorching summer sun.

It’s also key to keep them moist during the summer as drought will shrivel the developing flower buds. The beautiful winter blossoms are susceptibl­e to frost and this is what sometimes causes browning you see on the petals. It’s advisable to keep camellias away from morning sun because in winter a rapid thaw of frozen buds can put too much stress on the flower – so avoid east facing positions.

Camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’ is one of the most beautiful and best known varieties with its large semi-double orchid pink flowers. ‘Anticipati­on’ is an abundance of deep rose peony like flowers and ‘Debbie’ a very pretty rose pink peony form.

‘Jury’s Lemon’ has anemonetyp­e white flowers with a central mass of creamy yellow petals – the floral equivalent of a lemon meringue pie.

 ?? ?? Camellias come in a wide variety of shapes and colours – but they are all stunning
Camellia x williamsii Debbie
Camellias come in a wide variety of shapes and colours – but they are all stunning Camellia x williamsii Debbie
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’
Camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’
 ?? ?? ‘Jury’s Lemon’
‘Jury’s Lemon’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom