Camellia ‘Night Rider’ possesses the sort of qualities that would lead one to expect it to be massively popular, yet it is but rarely seen.
Raised in New Zealand by Os Blumhardt, its parents are C.’Ruby Bells’ x C.’Kuro-tsubaki’. It first flowered in 1980. The flowers are dark red and the petals waxy textured. It flowers late; this year in May when most other Camellias had finished. New growth is also late, commencing mid May. The new leaves are dark, glossy, purple red, particularly effective with back lighting. They turn dark green as summer progresses.
The individual blooms are about 5cm across and carried quite freely on my maturing bush. Flowering occurs before the new growth commences and against a backdrop of smallish dark green leaves.
The new shoots are 10cm long and are all the growth that the plant makes in a season. There is no second flush in summer so growth is very slow compared to most camellias. It is this slow growth that makes it unattractive to nurseries and ensures it is unlikely ever to become common.
Propagation would be by semi-ripe cuttings of current season’s growth taken mid-late July. Red pigment permeates every part of the plant; the centre of the stems and the roots being strongly infused .
Growth is compact and upright such that at ten years in average conditions it will be approaching a metre in height with a width of around 75cm. Camellias are long lived and it will no doubt get to 4 or 5 metres in time. It seems to grow well in full sun as well as in part shade and will be denser and more free flowering in the former.