Camellias are very rewarding plants to grow. Being evergreen they can provide either structure in the garden itself or an excellent boundary, providing privacy from neighbours or deflecting winds in exposed areas. The dark green leaves of most Camellias make the perfect backdrop for other plants in the garden, and as most Camellias flower in spring they extend the season of interest.
|Worth every care and effort... C. 'Rainbow' (autumn)|
Camellia flower buds tend to be produced in July/August, and then they swell up for winter before opening in spring. While the plant is producing buds it is particularly sensitive to drought, so make sure your plant doesn't get too dry at this crucial point in the year, especially in pots. The reputation that Camellias aren't completely hardy comes from the fact that their flowers can be damaged after frosts. To avoid damage to flowers make sure your Camellia is shaded from direct morning sunshine during the winter, where the rapid warming of frozen buds by the sun causes damage. Allow your Camellia's flower buds to defrost slowly and they are usually OK. Hard frosts will often damage open flowers, but this is the price we all pay when we grow early flowering plants. 'Camellia flower blight' is a fungal problem that causes blotching on the flowers- rake up dropped flowers and pick damaged flowers off the plant and you should be able to keep this problem at bay. To avoid spreading fungal spores you must not compost Camellia flowers.
|Just beautiful! Camellia 'Desire' (spring)|
Camellias are extraordinarily diverse in terms of colour, flower type and season. Broadly speaking most varieties fall into one of three main groups.
The C. japonica varieties are by far the most diverse, ranging from varieties with single flowers right through to very complex doubles, and with colours from white through to dark red. Most varieties I'm aware of have fairly large leaves, and all C. japonica varieties (to my knowledge) flower in spring.
Camellia x williamsii
This group are all derived from crossing Camellia saluensis and C. japonica. Typically C. x williamsii varieties produce prolific clusters of flowers, and often flower from a young age. Most C. x williamsii varieties seem to be pink, although a couple are white and one ('Jury's Yellow') is a creamy yellow colour. Some people prefer C. x williamsii cultivars because they drop their spent flowers, but to be honest I've never really noticed C. japonica holding onto its spent flowers for any length of time. There is a lot greater diversity of flower types and colours in C. japonica. With only one exception to my knowledge ('November Pink') all C. x williamsii varieties flower in spring.
Although Camellias are often thought of as exclusively spring flowering plants, autumn flowering varieties are becoming increasingly popular. By far the best known of the autumn flowering Camellias must be the varieties of C. sasanqua. Many of these varieties are richly scented, and the scent will carry well in a warm and sheltered garden. C. sasanqua varieties are believed to need a warm and sunny spot in the garden for the stems to ripen and flower; this might be true, but they might need that warm and sheltered spot so that they can have a longer growing season to set flower buds. As a general rule the autumn flowering Camellias are a lot more sensitive to feed than spring flowering varieties.
There are thousands upon thousands of varieties of Camellia known in cultivation, but you can view some of the varieties that have caught my attention here on my Pinterest board.