Houser and the Variegated Frank Houser are hybrids
showing off the Camellia reticulata parentage.
names like japonica, sasanqua, reticulata and even
hiemalis are unfamiliar to you then there is a chance
you are missing some of the truly great shrubs for the
landscape. On the other hand I know there are some of
you gardening aficionados who will immediately recognize
these are camellia species.
a young horticulturist, I found group after group of
seasoned gardeners who actually referred to camellias as
japonicas. This points out some interesting
observations. First and foremost there are dozens of
other plants with the species name of japonica.
defense of the old-timers claim however, I felt an
obligation to ask Google, what does japonica mean? The
first answer I saw was camellia and the second flowering
quince. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Botanically
speaking we know it means ‘from Japan.’
my next observation at the time was that this same
generation of gardeners didn’t seem to recognize
sasanquas as camellias which would go without saying
that the same would be true for all the other species.
But I digress……..
wasn’t long ago that gardeners would have to take
advantage of an opportunity to view a private collection
at someone’s home, or hit the blacktop for a road trip
to some botanical garden’s camellia display to learn
about this incredible shrub.
things have changed and many garden centers offer a
dramatic choice in camellias not only by varietal name
but many species that are still relatively unknown to
the home horticulturist. In our Judge Arthur
Solomon Camellia Garden we feature 44 different species
with many more hybrids.
for the generation that grew up calling them japonicas
there is so much more to enjoy. Oh for sure there are
camellia japonicas that defy logic with their beauty and
form and without a doubt you will want some of these to
plant in your own landscape.
time of the year it is the camellia reticulatas and
their hybrids that are among the most mesmerizing. Most
gardeners I speak with never knew such a camellia
existed. No description that I can give will do this
camellia justice. The flowers are enormous in size and
exquisite in their design. They also bring in
pollinators which I love.
you see a camellia reticulata like a George Firth or
hybrids like Frank Houser and the Variegated Frank
Houser you will become totally fixated. You will realize
camellias aren’t just japonicas. If you are like me,
you will indeed conclude though, these are must-have
plants for your landscape.
you may find yourself thinking that camellias are only
for the warmer southern zones. This will hold true for
certain species and hybrids but today’s breeding has
brought forth the Winter Series that boasts not only
exquisite flowers but cold hardiness to zone 6.
camellias require fertile well-drained acidic soil and
most do best in high filtered or shifting light, versus
full sun. So pay attention to your soil preparation
working in 3 or 4-inches of organic matter and plant on
raised beds. While many camellias are planted in the
fall, spring is also an exceptional time for planting
‘The Queen’ of woody shrubs.