N.C. — Pink, be it pale or vivid, is not a color I
associate with December. But there it is because one of
the best plants for the Piedmont landscape is blooming.
is the Camellia sasanqua, which opened its winter show a
few weeks ago. This is a fantastic, long-lived plant,
both useful and beautiful.
a screen is needed, the upright sasanquas make a great
choice because of the natural density of the stems and
foliage. Others are more spreading and can form with
proper pruning, a lovely tree with a broad canopy rising
10 to 12 feet. This can become a signature tree for your
landscape. It is not the only choice but if you are keen
that this special plant be evergreen, a sasanqua makes a
sasanquas are just part of the camellia show that can
last from mid-autumn to March when you add selections of
early, midseason and late-flowering types of Camellia
japonica that bloom from January through the winter and
camellias prosper in filtered sunlight, which is the
kind of light that breaks through light tree canopies.
Sasanquas will take stronger sunlight, which increases
their usefulness particularly when you need a set of
plants to make a hedge away from the shade of trees.
color range of sasanquas is mostly white and shades of
pink from pale to vivid as well as red. Some are
distinctive for their bright yellow stamens. Some
varieties produce single, open blooms; still others have
double, fluffy ones. Blooms tend to be a smaller than
the Camellia japonica, but every bit as lovely and can
be cut for vases indoors.
because December weather tends to be milder than January
or February, sasanqua blooms are rarely lost to deep
such beautiful plants, camellias pose few problems. You
can plant them now and through the winter. Good soil is
important, so improve and lighten heavy clay soil with
compost that will ensure good drainage and root
development. Because the roots tend to spread rather
than dive, dig the planting hole
the plant so that the top of the root ball is just a tad
higher than the surrounding soil level, then apply mulch
such as pine needles, shredded bark or loose leaves.
late winter, just ahead of the growing season, apply a
long-lasting, slow-release shrub fertilizer formulated
for acid-loving plants such as Holly-Tone. Pay attention
to watering the new plant especially during dry
stretches next summer.