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On Gardening: Fall blooming camellias offer stunning landscape performance

November 14, 2016

Yuletide is a favorite camellia with cheerful red petals and bight golden stamens.

Hurricane Matthew gave our Judge Arthur Solomon Camellia garden a stiff uppercut as it brought down a lot of large trees. But now one month later, the fall blooming camellias are bringing in guests: pollinating visitors like honeybees that are relishing every moment. The bees seem to be in ecstasy as they literally dive into a cave of pollen. Itís not just one bee to a flower but three or four at a time.

Mention fall blooming camellias and the first thought is most likely the Camellia sasanqua. You would treasure this plant with its deep glossy green foliage even if it never bloomed. There are lots of varieties and each has the ability to provide the bones or evergreen structure needed in the home landscape.

Many like Pink Butterfly or Pink Serenade have colorful flowers, reach 5 to 6 inches wide, and exhibit bright golden stamens. Then there are bi-colored selections like Leslie Ann and Hana Jiman that look like they were painted by an artist brush.

Perhaps you are thinking that camellias might not be cold-hardy for you, but depending on where you live, it just might be one of the winter series that you need. Winterís Rose, Winterís Star and Winterís Hope are Camellia oleifera hybrids released by the U.S. National Arboretum and are cold hardy to zone 6b meaning they suitable as far north as places like St. Louis and Maryland. The Camellia oleifera commonly called teal oil camellia has a penchant for bringing in pollinators in addition to offering terrific cold hardiness.

But there are other fall blooming camellias such as the Camellia hiemalis or snow camellia with well-known cultivars like Kanjiro and the award winning compact Shishigashira. Then there is the one we consider the ultimate Christmas camellia, Yuletide, a Camellia vernalis hybrid selection with the truest red petals and bright golden stamens.

Fifteen years ago the camellia world was turned on its head with the introduction of Early Autumn a true formal double form Camellia japonica that blooms in the fall. From September through December gardeners can enjoy the exquisite blooms that most considered only available in February or March depending on how cold the winter. Early Autumn is incredibly beautiful and early making it on my list of must have camellias for the garden.

Camellias are ideally suited for the high shade or filtered light garden, though sasanquas can tolerate quite a bit more sun. At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden we have ours with a high canopy of pine and the picturesque castanopsis trees with almost white bark. It is a most magical setting.

Camellias require fertile well-drained acidic soil and know that even if you live in a zone like 6b or 7 consider placing on the south to southeast side of your home or other protected micro-climate. If you live in a colder zone, know that they are also great in containers that can be moved as needed for cold protection

Fall is a great time to plant, and inventories of camellias are normally at their highest now. Roots increase dramatically during the cool season, allowing the plant to really get acclimated and take off once growth resumes in the spring.

In the landscape put them in a bed versus surrounded by turf. Try clustering three together in front of Nelly R. Stevens or Fosters holly. For a truly exquisite look, use in combination with the smaller Red Holly hybrids like Festive, Robin or Little Red. These combinations will make your woodland landscape the envy of friends and family.

Camellias have the ability to deliver to the home landscape a succession of blooms from September to April, there are selections with fragrance, picturesque bark, and flowers that will create that Kodak moment. There is no doubt that the camellia is indeed the queen of shrubs.

 

 


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