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Camellias

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Camellias are evergreen shrubs, or even small trees with glossy green leaves. Most of the species are native to East or South-East Asia and those, which are hardy in the British Isles, originate from China and Japan. For your information we would like to point out that Camellia sinensis, a slow growing, tender native of China, is the ‘Tea Plant’ whose leaves are used to make the tea we drink each day.
Camellias vary greatly in height, not only between species, but also between cultivars of the same species and the hybrids between them. A good example of this is in our nursery showground where two Camellia x williamsii hybrids planted twenty years ago, differ so much in size. ‘Saint Ewe’ AGM is now 12 feet (3.65m), whereas ‘Donation’ AGM is only 7 feet (2.15m) in height.
Camellia species and their cultivars also vary in the time of the year in which they flower. The cultivars of Camellia reticulate and sasanqua flower during the winter and early spring and must be given frost protection in all but the warmest parts of the UK.
However, these have been hybridized with other hardy species to give us a number of excellent hybrids.
Camellia japonica was introduced into the UK during 1739 and for many years was grown as a warm glasshouse plant. Lack of fuel and labour during the first world war saw the demise of most warm glasshouse plants, but Camellia japonica actually thrived better without warmth. The consequence of this being that gardeners planted them first in sheltered spots in the garden and eventually in more exposed sites where they proved to be almost as hardy as laurels. There are now hundreds of japonica hybrids, many being similar, and to confuse people red, pink, or white flowers may appear on the same plant.
Camellia saluenensis is a lovely, but very tender shrub, which is covered with soft, single pink flowers in late winter. During 1925, this was crossed with Camellia japonica to give us the x williamsii hybrids, which are amongst the finest of flowering evergreens. They flower from November to April in Cornwall, but in the Midlands flowers rarely appear before February.

SITE AND SOIL

As they flower during the winter or spring, Camellias will thrive and produce more flowers if they are kept out of direct sunlight. A west or even north facing site is ideal.
Camellias require a fertile, slightly acid, woodland type soil. Work in plenty of peat, composted bark and mature garden compost, or leaf soil. If you garden on chalk you can still grow Camellias in raised beds, or in containers filled with 50 per cent John Innes no 3 compost and 50 per cent composted bark, or peat.
Container and open ground plants should be watered at regular intervals between April and September. If you do not have rainwater use tap water, which we have found will not harm Camellias. Shortage of water, especially during July and August is the main reason for plants not forming flower buds, or half formed buds dropping off as the sap starts to rise in February. Open ground plants may only need feeding three times a year, during April, June and August. Container grown plants may need feeding every month from April to August with Ericaceous fertilizer.

PRUNING

Old Camellias often look woody, open and straggly and this is due to lack of formative pruning when they were young. As soon as a plant has stopped flowering during April, or early May, prune the previous year’s growth back by half its length, ensuring there are a few green leaves on the remaining growth. Side shoots will appear to provide next years flowers. This type of pruning can be carried out during the first four or five years so that the plant is dense and compact.

WHICH TO CHOOSE

We usually have over 60 Camellia cultivars in stock and to help you in your choice we have listed a number, which have an Award of Garden Merit (AGM)

Please bear in mind that the plants listed may not be available at all times of the year. Email enquiries@goscote.co.uk for details of specific plant availability.

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Adolphe Audusson’.
Vigorous, but compact shrub. Semi-double, deep pink flowers.
‘Anticipation’. Vigorous and upright shrub. Semi-double, deep red flowers.
Ballet Dancer’.
Compact and upright shrub. Anemone form, cream, shaded
pink flowers.
‘Bob Hope’
Compact shrub. Semi-double, dark red flowers
‘Brushfields Yellow’. Compact and upright shrub. Anemone form, cream with
yellow centre.
Debbie’. Vigorous and upright shrub. Large peony form, clear pink
flowers.
‘Donation’.
Vigorous and upright shrub. Semi-double pink flowers.
Elsie Jury’.
Vigorous open shrub. Full peony form, clear pink.
Guillo Nuccio’.
Vigorous, upright shrub. Semi-double rose pink flowers.
‘Inspiration’.
Medium size, compact shrub. Semi-double, deep pink flowers.
Jupiter’. Vigorous and upright shrub. Single or semi-double scarlet
flowers, may occasionally have white blotches.
‘Juries Yellow’ Compact and upright shrub. Single white flowers, which
have a large boss of golden, petaloid stamens in the centre.
Lavinia Maggi’. Vigorous and upright shrub. Large, formal double white, or
pale pink, striped cerise flowers.
‘Leonard Messal’.
A vigorous, large shrub. Large semi-double pink flowers.
Mars’. Vigorous, open shrub, Large, semi-double Turkey red.
‘Saint Ewe’. Very vigorous upright shrub. Single rose-pink flowers.
Water Lily’. Vigorous and upright shrub. Formal double lavender flowers.