Autumn and winter are the two seasons when Camellias really come into their own in the garden. Perennially popular, camellias have very few pests and diseases, flower when much of the garden has begun to finish blooming, and they make great screens – a fact that makes them highly desirable in urban areas.
So what kinds are there and what should you plant? If its hedging you’re after, then Camellia sasanquais probably your best choice. They flower first, beginning in Autumn and continuing to early winter. They will cope with more sun than C. japonica and are easily distinguished as their flowers drop petal by petal, whereas japonicas will fall whole to the ground. They also have smaller flowers, which are often filled with nectar loving birds when they are flowering.Sasanquas respond well to pruning after flowering and will bush up to form a dense screen or small tree, depending how they are pruned. They also espalier, or can be pruned flat against a wall, reasonably easily.
Camellia japonicas are at their peak throughout winter. Sometimes called the Queen of winter flowers, it’s not hard to know why: their stunning flowers adorn them from winter into spring in a range of shapes and sizes. Some are formal doubles, others open single forms and some have almost peony shaped flowers.
Camellias japonicas provide a perfect solution for semi-shade spots under trees and along the side of houses where the sun only shines for a few hours each day.They are evergreen and have attractive dark green glossy leaves and make an elegant feature specimen, informal hedge or delightful potted specimen, growing from 1 metre to about 10 metres, depending on variety and if they are ground grown or containerised.
All types prefer well drained, slightly acidic soil. Enrich garden soil prior to planting with cow manure and use Rose, Camellia and Azalea mix if growing in pots. Fertilise in autumn and again in spring (after flowering) with Azalea, Camellia and Rhododendron fertiliser. Keep a layer of organic mulch over the root area and don’t dig around the root zone as they don’t like root disturbance. If you’re growing them in pots, you can buy special purpose potting mix.
By: Meredith Kirton