}

November 27, 2011

My 'Earlier than Normal', Camellia Season

THE EARLIEST CAMELLIAS TO BLOOM IN THE AUTUMN ARE THE SASANQUA TYPE, THE GROUP WHICH INCLUDES GREEN TEA. THIS PINK SINGLE SASANQUA IS A JAPANESE CULTIVAR CALLED 'OMIGOROMO'

Camellias in New England? The Camellia has a long history as a container plant in New England glasshouses, they were some of the first plants ever grown in greenhouses in the 17th and 18 Century in and around the Boston area. Estates often kept large tubs of Camellias which arrived on ships from China, Japan and Europe where it was a popular cut flower. A Camellia blossom often was one of the few flowers available during the cold winter months, where short day length plants that could withstand cold temperatures included scented violets, forced bulbs and citrus. 

'CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'OMIGOROMO'
Many think of camellia's as out-dated corsage plants best saved for old ladies and some foundation plantings in southern California or the south, sadly, the generation who did remember the Camellia as a corsage flower is gone, leaving this fine cold weather bloomer prime for re-discovery by a new generation who will need to learn how to grow it. If you live in New England as I do, camellias do best in cold greenhouses, or perhaps an unheated room, if you live in an old house. There was a time when a every Victorian mansion had a chilly, unheated room, or even a conservatory where camellia trees thrived in large terra cotta pots. 

CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'MINE NO YUKU', OR SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN, HAS NOW BEEN RENAMED BY  MONROVIA NURSERIES, AND MARKETED UNDER THE REGISTERED NAME OF 'WHITE DOVES'. 
 Today, the camellia suffers from modern heating systems and dry air - two things which they hate. Outdoor culture in the northeast has not yet been perfected. There is much excitement about new, hardier species coming into the market from northern Korea and from high elevation sites in China and Japan, but most seem to be reliable hardy to Pennsylvania and zone 7. A few are surviving in Zones 5 and 6, but only in special sites.

This autumn, my camellias are blooming very early, most of my tubs were in bloom in February as I posted earlier this year in a camellia round-up, but even some later types are starting to bloom. Camellias are grouped into specific groups, representing either their flower shape, they heritage or their type. There are sasanqua's, which mostly bloom in the autumn, and then there are camellia japonica's, species, and many more. My sasanqua types always bloom in November, but this season even has some japonica's blooming. In January, many of these same plants were in bloom.
'MINE-NO-YUKI' MAKES AN IMPRESSIVE TUBBED SPECIMEN FOR FALL GARDENS, WHERE IT CAN REMAIN OUTDOORS UNTIL TEMPERATURES FALL BELOW 26 DEGREES F. I MOVE MINE IN AND OUT OF THE GREENHOUSE, AS THE WEATHER SHIFTS. THIS AUTUMN HAS BEEN REMARKABLY MILD, SO THE SASANQUA'S ARE OUTSIDE AGAIN.



CAMELLIA 'SHIBORI EGAO' HAS VARIEGATED FOLIAGE AS WELL AS BI-COLORED FLOWERS IN PINK AND WHITE.
 Camellias in Japan and China have a long history in horticulture, many have been grown for as long as plants have been cultivated in pots, some of the first cultivated plant by man included the camellia in China, but even today, they plant is treated with the highest of respect. In North America, the camellia is a popular landscape plant only in the mildest of climates, and any decent garden in southern states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia or western states like California and Oregon is not complete without a camellia tree blooming in the winter. For those of us in the north, the camellia is still an exotic plant, rarely seen at all, either in the florist shops, or in the garden. I am on a personal mission to change that. If you are interested in growing camellias, consider joining the American Camellia Society. Or Google search for a local state chapter, or one for your country. The Camellia Web based in Southern California is a great place to start.
CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'YULETIDE', A POPULAR CULTIVAR FOR LATE AUTUMN AND EARLY WINTER BLOOMS. BEAUTIFUL, BRIGHT RED SINGLE BLOSSOMS THAT ARE VERY JAPANESE LOOKING, ALMOST LIKE A PLUM BLOSSOM.

A HIGO TYPE CAMELLIA THAT I PLANTED IN THE GROUND IN THE GREENHOUSE, IS LOADED WITH BUDS, AND I EXPECT THIS TREE TO BE IN BLOOM MOST OF THE WINTER. ITS LARGE SEVEN INCH BLOSSOMS ARE SO SIMPLE, YET BRIGHT WITH THEIR CENTRAL BOSS OF STAMENS.

AN EARLY BLOOMING C. JAPONICA 'SAN DIMAS', IS SHOWING SMALLER FLOWERS THIS YEAR, BUT BLOOMING FOR ME A GOOD THREE MONTHS EARLY.

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