I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time looking at other people’s Camellias for one reason or another. It seemed about time I focussed on my own. Don’t ask me how many I have, I don’t have a clue. There are several planted in the garden, more that I have had growing in pots for years, a great many more that are young plants in 9cm or 1L pots and rather a lot in my mist unit.
I just went the rounds with my camera, here’s some of what is performing.
Camellia reticulata ‘Mystique’ doesn’t appear to have been registered. It was a variety we bought from a New Zealand young plant supplier some years ago and it is not listed in the New Zealand or International Camellia Society registers. The name had previously been given to a japonica so it may have been registered as something else or it may have been too difficult to propagate so discontinued. It is superb. For a retic. it is compact and exceptionally free flowering.
Camellia ‘Bob’s Tinsie’, like so many top flight Camellias, was raised by Nuccio’s Nursery in California. Mine is a low spreading bush with rather pendulous branches, which is odd because it seems more often to be upright. Indeed, the Mt Edgcumbe plant is a short standard. The flowers are small, 5-8cm across, but numerous and over a long period.
Camellia ‘Nuccio’s Pearl’ has made a dense bush after being damaged a few years back by falling branches. It’s lovely but gets damaged a bit easily and is seriously marred by quite small flaws. It has budded exceptionally well this year.
These two are in pots, stood below an oak tree which has been a popular perch for large numbers of starlings in recent months. Let’s just say they have received quite a lot of supplementary feeding. ‘Kerguelen’ is a variegated sport of ‘Nuccio’s Cameo’, developed by Stervinou Nursery in France. ‘Nuccio’s Pink Lace’ is a large flowered soft pink variety from which I have occasionally detected a light scent.
Camellia ‘Bob Hope’ is yet another Nuccio variety and as good a deep red as you’ll find. The flowers are large, abundant and last well. Temperatures around freezing will cause the flowers to darken, particularly along the veins. I have found this to be a slow variety to start with, moderate once established. My bush is about eight feet tall now and I prune it to keep it around that height.
Camellia grijsii is a species from China. The flowers are small, around 4cm across, starting well before year’s end and still going now, though coming to an end as you can see. What sets it apart is its scent, which is a sweet fragrance that carries a good way. It will make a tall bush, small leaved and open.
Both ‘Adorable’ and ‘Annette Carol’ were raised by E.R. Sebire in Victoria, Australia and both are seedlings of Camellia pitardii var. pitardii. My plant of ‘Adorable’ is particularly compact, I know of another that has a more typical growth rate. Both flower very freely over a good period and both get paler as the flowers age.
This looks a bit sparse in the foliage department but I think that’s because it was potbound when planted out. The flowers are pretty good though.
My small tunnel houses a lot of small camellia plants that I have grown from cuttings. Camellia japonica ‘Gertrude Preston’ has lovely waxy flowers that outdoors would be paler than this. It is one of a handful of varieties I have found to set seed reliably outdoors in this country and I am keen to try pollinating it with various suitors. The similar variety on the right is ‘Sunny Side’, yet another Nuccio product. Between them is ‘Fairy Wand’, the product of another great plant breeder, Os Blumhardt, of New Zealand. It seems only borderline hardy with me so I shall keep it in a pot for now. Its vivid pink flowers are small but produced in clusters at each node.
‘Koto-no-kaori’ and ‘Minato-no-akebono’ are relatively recent hybrids out of Japan. Both are hybrids of Camellia japonica and Camellia lutchuensis and from the latter they have both inherited a sweet perfume. The flowers are about 5cm across and borne for around three months in late winter to early spring. ‘Sweet Emily Kate’ has a slightly more involved parentage and is three quarters japonica to one quarter lutchensis. My potted plant is low and spreading, flowers a little later than the other two but is similarly scented.
For much of the country, Camellias are only growable in pots, not especially difficult provided their needs are met. It does mean though that the market for them is limited and so as a result is the range offered. There are a few Camellia specialist nurseries around but I’m afraid you still won’t find most of the varieties mentioned. Every one of them is well worth having should you ever see them and the scented spring flowerers seem especially desirable to me.