Camellias are evergreens we look at enviously when we see them in bloom in other people’s gardens; or when we go to southern countries like Italy, and Spain and see them growing as tall as trees and full of flowers. Then we regard them as the most beautiful and desirable of all trees.
In Japan, China and Korea, where Camellia japonica grows in the wild, the plant often reaches a height of 40 feet and has a strong, straight trunk, smooth and pale green, resembling the trunk of a young Beech.
Charles Sprague Sanger, the eminent botanist and collector, who died in 1927, says in his Forest Flora of Japan that in Southern Japan Camellia japonica (the best known of the species) is a common forest plant from the sea-level to an altitude of 2,500 feet on the east coast, and grows as far north as latitude 36, where it is a dwarf bush only a few feet high. But when the soil and climate favour it, the Camellia becomes a tree 30 to 40 feet tall.
It is the varieties of this wild plant that we see in our gardens and some of us grow in hot-houses. They do not however respond well to artificial heat; it often causes the flowers to drop; Camellias are best grown in a sheltered spot out of doors, or in cold northern climates, in a well-ventilated cold greenhouse.
C. japonica, known to the Japanese as Tsubaki, was cultivated in their gardens in the 15th century; many charming seedling forms were raised, and many others were introduced into the country from China. Exchange of varieties went on between the two countries during the course of centuries, but none of the plants reached Europe till about 1800. The type plant seems to have been despatched to England by accident in a consignment of specimens and seeds of the tea-plant (Camellia sinensis) by the East India Company in China about the beginning of the 18th century. It was thought that the tea-plant might be cultivated successfully here as it was in the East. It is too tender however (and as an ornamental scarcely worth the space it requires); you might find an odd plant or two in our warm maritime gardens (there are some in the Temperate House at Kew); they have small white flowers and only their glossy green foliage is attractive. But C. japonica and the first varieties raised, such as the lovely double-white alba plena, and the red rubra plena attracted much attention and soon became favourite shrubs for the adornment of hot-houses and conservatories.
There is a large number of remarkable beautiful varieties now available from our shrub nurseries; some single, some semi-double (the best kinds for outdoor culture, by the way), and the very double ones, which are more backward in opening and seem to suffer more from frosts.
Actually, six forms have been identified, ranging from Single to Formal Double.
Single. The flower has usually 5 to 7 petals, at most 9, which surround the stamens, sometimes an occasional one of these becoming slightly petaloid.
Semi-double. The flower is made up of from 14 to 20 petals in two or more rows; sometimes there are as few as 9 petals. The centre is similar to that of the Single.
Anemone Form. A flat flower; its centre is a convex mass of intermingling petaloids and stamens; the outer petals are in one or more rows.
Paeony Form. The several rows of large outer petals form a deep rounded flower; the centre is similar to that of the preceding.
Rose Form. Imbricated petals (overlapping like tiles on a roof). When the flower is fully open, the stamens are visible.
Formal double. The flower is made up of many rows of imbricated petals; the stamens are seldom visible.
Seedlings and varieties of C. japonica, raised first in China and Japan hundreds of years ago, then in Europe and America (their number is inestimable) show an astonishingly wide range of colouring and form. Thousands have gone out of cultivation, but we are still left with at least 12,000 which have been recorded. The difficulty of choosing a few for a small garden is obvious. All we can do – those of us who cannot visit a Camellia nursery or attend any of the R.H.S. Shows – is to consult current shrub catalogues. We usually find in them the cream of the particular shrubs and trees we want to grow in our garden.
The following varieties have been recommended to me by a Camellia specialist. Adolphe audusson (semi-double). It was awarded an A.M. In 1934. One of the best for outdoors, although in many inland gardens its flower-buds are often spoiled by cold and damp; nevertheless it is a strong grower, its leaves and new growths withstand hard frosts very well. It is one of the most popular of the blood-red Japonica Camellias. Its flowers fall without fading, after reaching maturity, covering the ground with petals.
Alba plena (formal double). An old Chinese variety, introduced at the end of the 18th century. It has pure white waxen-like flowers, 5 inches across, which are magnificent against the burnished green leaves. (The leaves of the Japonica Camellias are ovalish in shape, a lovely glossy green and from 3 to 4 inches long; they are smooth and of a firm, leathery texture – perhaps the most beautiful of all evergreen leaves. Alba plena is a slow grower and difficult to propagate. Cleft-grafting is the method used by gardeners. This variety is a good choice for out-of-doors. Alba simplex (single). Another white variety. Large flowers with conspicuous yellow anthers. It is among the easiest to grow and does equally well under glass or in the garden. Althaeaflora (paeony form). This has long been cultivated in our gardens and is excellent too for a cold greenhouse. Charming red flowers. A seedling raised here and mentioned by George Don in his book General History of Dichlamydeous Plants, published in 1831. See the following variety. Anemonaeflora (semi-double). Lovely rose-pink flowers with paeony-like centre. This variety appears in a list of C. japonica forms enumerated by George Don, who gives the date of its introduction as 1793. arejishi (paeony form). Big blood-red flowers, which are remarkably beautiful with their background of large glossy green leaves. It is very hardy and an early bloomer. Augusto l. l. gouveia pinto. This Camellia originated in a garden in Beira Alta, Central Portugal, at the end of the 19th century. The large, imbricated flowers are a pure pink, when the plant is grown under glass; in the open they are touched with violet-lavender and most arresting in their beauty. It is a mid-season flower and a favourite florists’ Camellia.
CAMPBELLii (single or semi-double). It makes a roundish, compact shrub, and in late April is covered with exquisite rose-pink flowers. It has often been recommended for a hedge. Even if the flowers are damaged by late spring frosts – a calamity we must expect now and then – the foliage will be beautiful. It is much more attractive than the Laurel. For a hedge, set the plants fairly close: not more than 2 feet apart. Gandidissima (formal double). Another compact shrub. It carries an abundance of pure white flowers early in the year; it was introduced as long ago as 1861 and still holds its own with any of the many new varieties. d. iierzilia de freitas magalhaes (incomplete double). Another glorious Camellia from Portugal. The red flowers rather resemble those of the other variety mentioned above, and are similarly touched with violet-lavender. According to J. Moreira da Silva, who raised the plant, it often carries red and mauve flowers at the same time. It was raised in 1925 from seed collected from beneath other Camellias. Apparently some Camellias can be grafted with different varieties and carry different flowers at the same time. The following report of a gardener concerning his skill at grafting greenhouse varieties back in early Victorian times is worth giving in full. He says: ‘There are several large Camellias at Woodhall that have not been shifted these 5 years, and they are still in high health, having always produced above a hundred fine large flowers every year. Six years ago I shifted a single Camellia from a 12-inch pot into a tub 17 inches wide by 17 inches deep, and grafted it with two different sorts of double red, one double striped, and one double white. It is still in the same tub, and all the four sorts in high health. I have had all the four in flower at once on it, producing a fine contrast of colours. The plant is large and handsome, being 8 feet 6 inches high, and 6 feet 9 inches wide. There is another plant here 12 feet high, having upon it all the sorts I possess. They were only grafted last summer, and a number of sorts are showing flowers. Grafts of all of them have been taken, and are growing well.’
Both of the Portuguese Camellias I have mentioned are included in Mrs. Urquhart’s book The Camellia, a superbly illustrated folio, in which the species and varieties she has chosen are described with exemplary thoroughness.
DONGKELARI. An old catalogue of Marchant’s Nursery calls it ‘One of the hardiest of all Camellias for outdoor planting.’ Well formed semi-double deep red flowers; free flowering. The colour has been variously described as Cherry-red, Turkey-red . . . The white variegation in the petals varies, as does the shade of red. In acid soils the red is more intense; in soils only slightly acid (or slightly alkaline) it is paler. The plant was first mentioned in Dhorticulteur Beige in 1834. elegans. An old favourite, with big, light red flowers measuring 5^-inches in diameter. (Sometimes listed in old catalogues as chandleri elegans.) It is one of the oldest and loved by every Camellia-fancier. It is the progeny of anemoneflora and variegata, which are both old Japonica variants. Eximea (formal double). It is an old variety, known in England at the beginning of the 19th century. It is easy to grow and does especially well in a pot in a cold greenhouse, where its crimson flowers open about February. Equally good for outside but later in bloom. Frau minna seidel (formal double). This plant is known in Japan (whence it was introduced by T. J. Seidel in 1893) as usu-otome, which means Pale Maiden. The flowers are smallish, pink, fading to white before they fall, and are much in demand by florists. It makes a superb show-piece for the conservatory or winter-garden, grown in a tub or a pot. The plant is easily raised from cuttings. Fred sander (semi-double). Raised in the Belgian nurseries of F. Sander et Fils. The flowers, Turkey-red, or crimson, are medium-sized, the petals waved, are in rows, surrounding a mass of stamens. (A.M. In 1921.) gauntletti (semi-double). It is often called by its Japanese name, sode-gakushi. This white-flowered Camellia is a good shrub for growing in a pot or a tub and it also does well out of doors. Gloire de nantes (semi-double). This variety is recommended for planting out of doors in gardens in the London district. It has large rose-pink flowers, with conspicuous centres of deep yellow stamens. Hana-fuki (semi-double. Large cup-shaped flowers). It was introduced into England from Japan in 1939; some years previously into the U.S.A., where it was re-named mrs. Howard asper. The flower is singular among the Japonica varieties in being rather like those of some of the Magnolia blooms, with their recurved petals. These petals are a delightful shade of rose-pink and surround a prominent cluster of white filaments tipped with yellow. Hatsu-sakura (single). It has an exceptionally large flower, 6 inches across; the petals (rose-pink) are big and beautifully formed, with a central wave; the yellow anthers very prominent.
The shrub is hardy in southern gardens and blooms early. Regarded as among the finest of all the singles. It costs a little more than the other Japonica varieties. Jupiter (single). In a garden near London I have seen this Camellia planted close to a wall facing north-west, the main stems pressed against the brick-work and spreading out fan-like towards the top, where there was a superabundance of growth. It is one of the most reliable varieties for planting out of doors. It has medium to large flowers of a geranium red, with darker veining on the petals, which are broad and overlapping. Kimberley (single). A.M. In 1934. A variety probably of Japanese origin. The flowers are a brilliant red in colour and composed of 5 to 6 large, thickish petals, which surround a wide, contracting cluster of golden yellow stamens. And as an excellent foil there are the large, deep glossy green leaves. They are shallowly-serrated at the edge. Lady clare (semi-double). Recommended for the garden, though regarded as too tender by some, except in warm sheltered gardens. There are several magnificent specimens at Leonardslee (Sussex). Large rose-pink flowers against large, dark green leaves. About 15 petals surrounding a centre of golden-yellow stamens. It is not in bloom as long as many of the other Japonica varieties. Latifolia (semi-double). A late bloomer and somehow its flowers always seem to catch the spring frosts. Many people like to grow it in a cold greenhouse. I knew a gardener who forced it, in a moderate temperature, and had it in bloom from October till January. The plant was grown in a tub and kept in the greenhouse all through the spring and summer months (then without heat). But the flowers did not last long after they had opened. Normally of course the outdoor flowers last longer than those of most other plants, excepting the Chrysanthemum and the Carnation. In America Camellias, when cut, are kept fresh and beautiful for many weeks in the ice-box. Magnoliaeflora (semi-double). It lias charming, rather tousled-looking flowers, the petals, about 18, channeled and recurving, surrounding an erect cluster of golden-yellow stamens. The flowers are about 4 inches in diameter and of a lovely blush pink colour. The plant makes an upright shrub of compact habit and blooms freely. In Japan, the country of its origin, it is known as hago-romo. Mathiotiana (formal double). This is perfectly hardy and makes a wide-spreading shrub. Nevertheless many collectors prefer to grow it in a tub indoors so that its large, deep crimson flowers shall not be damaged by frost and damp weather – two conditions which do more damage to Camellia flowers than anything else. Mathiotiana alba (formal double). In this form the flowers are white. Although a hardy plant, it is, like the above, often grown indoors. Mathiotiana rosea (formal double). It has large, rose-pink flowers. Again, a hardy variety which is often grown under glass for the sake of the flowers. In many cold, northern districts of this country Camellias must be housed under glass if they are to give a show of flowers unsullied by bad weather. The greenhouse must be well ventilated and no heat should be given, except during a spell of intense cold and when the flowers happen to be opening or are just showing colour (in the bud). Prolonged artificial heat enervates the vigour of the plants and soon begins to tell; ultimately the shrubs suffer.
Nagasaki (semi-double). A hardy variety from Japan, where the plant is called miken-jaku. The flowers are big, of a deep crimson colour, each flower composed of 9 petals slightly waved at the margins; some of the petals are blotched with white; the stamens are intermixed with a few petaloids. The deep green glossy foliage is especially beautiful. Nobilissima (paeony form). A very old Camellia which blooms early (February and March in the south); it is best housed in most districts in a cold greenhouse – I have seen it used for indoor decoration : in a pot and standing in a hall entrance. It has a self-white flower, small to medium-sized, with a high centre of mixed petaloids, twisted and folded, and conspicuous golden-yellow stamens. Rubesgens major (formal double). Around London it is best grown in a cold greenhouse for the sake of its glorious deep rose-red flowers. They are about 4 inches wide, the inner petals folding inward and forming a rose-bud-like centre. Propagation is effected by cleft-grafting on seedlings of C. japonica stocks. Tricolor (semi-double). An uncommonly beautiful variegated flower. Sometimes it is white with red markings; sometimes pink with deep carmine. The original plants introduced by Siebold from Japan in 1830, had white flower, striped with pink and red. It has sported into several forms: tricolor pink: tricolor red: tricolor folki. They are characterised by their narrow leaves twisted at the centre. Yuki-botan (semi-double). A favourite variety in the U.S.A., where it was introduced from Japan in 1930; some magnificent specimens grow in California. A flower, arresting in the beauty of its structure of pure glistening white waxy petals surrounding a large centre of golden-yellow stamens.
A good collection of Japonica Camellias may be seen at Kew, growing outside, planted near a tall brick wall; they are in flower about March.
Most of the varieties I have described here will be found in current catalogues; it is a good selection, I think. Many equally as fine have been raised within the past decade in the U.S.A. And in Europe. Several are known to gardeners here in England; but not many; they have been omitted perforce from the above list.
Before describing any other garden varieties, let us look at some of the species. They are not so striking as most of the Rhododendron species; and there are comparatively few of them. And of the 82 species recognized, not more than about half a dozen are listed in catalogues. The wild plants are eclipsed in beauty by the numerous variants derived from them.
The most renowned is Camellia sinensis (Chinese), the Tea Plant, which was cultivated by the Chinese centuries before the Christian era. The plant is a native of Upper Assam, N. East India, where special cultivated varieties grow in the tea plantations. The type plant has narrow, dull green leaves and small fragrant white flowers. It has no ornamental value in our gardens, neither can it or its varieties be cultivated as economic plants in our climate. Some gardeners in the warm southern counties grow it as a curiosity.
Perhaps the most beautiful is C. reticulata (reticulated or net-veined; the name referring to the venation of the leaves, which is clearly visible, enabling one to identify the plant very easily).
The late Lord Aberconway regarded it as the finest of all the species, and according to Marchant (Nurseries) it is known as the Queen of Camellias. The flowers (semi-double) are a lovely rose-red and 6 inches wide; the leathery, net-veined glossy green leaves are 4 inches long and about 2 inches wide. It was introduced from China by Captain Rawes in 1820 -but it is actually a cultivated plant which he got from a garden or a nursery at some trading port, probably Canton or Amoy. The plant is known as captain rawes and is offered by most nurseries. The genuine wild species was not discovered however till 1912, when George Forrest collected it in open Pine forests in the hills around Tengyueh, Western Yunnan.
There at high altitudes it makes a tall shrub or tree up to 35 feet high, loosely branched, with dull green leaves, net-veined and smooth; the flowers, rose-red, have usually 6 petals, and numerous yellow stamens. It is a lovely plant and would succeed in our warmest, most sheltered gardens.
This species was first raised from seed sent by Forrest to Mr. J. C. Williams of Caerhays Castle, Cornwall, and flowered in 1932.
Mr. Scaly in his monograph of the genus suggests that the single-flowered plant should be designated ‘forma simplex: C. reticulata forma simplex.’ C. reticulata can be bought for about 32J. From any good shrub specialist.
Another very charming species is C. saluenensis (of a region around the Salween River). It was collected by Forrest on the Shweli-Salween divide, and in other regions of western Yunnan during a 1917-25 expedition. Plants were raised from seed he sent to the late Mr. J. C. Williams, and to him we owe the introduction of the species into cultivation.
The type plant is a shrub of from 6 to 12 feet high, densely covered with dark glossy green foliage; the rose-pink flowers, single, are made up of 6 or 7 petals about 1£ inches long, and have a cup-shaped centre of yellow stamens.
The flowers vary in colour in the wild state: white, rose, and crimson forms have been seen.
The finest specimens in England grow in Cornwall and other sheltered warm districts. The species can be obtained from any of our leading shrub nurseries.
Hillier says of it: ‘This beautiful species from West China has withstood our severest winters here (Winchester), with only slight injury, when given a carefully selected site. It resembles C. reticulata, but has smaller leaves and flowers, the latter being a lovely soft pink, and most profusely borne over a long period.’ A much older Camellia, which has been known to us since the beginning of the igth century, is C. sasanqua (Sasan-Kuwa in Japan and China). I saw it in bloom in November in the Temperate House at Kew: a shrub about 12 feet tall, of open habit, with smallish glossy-green leaves and covered with small single pink flowers, which smelt delightfully of tea. Outside, in the garden, the shrub flowers later, and in this district more often than not is a failure, the flowers being completely destroyed by damp and frost.
The pink-flowered plant is probably a cultivated form, since the genuine wild plant has small white flowers. It is apparently widely spread in Japan and China. Some of the finest specimens to be seen in Europe grow in North Italy where the bushes reach a height of 20 feet or more, and measure nearly as much across.
Camellia cuspidata (with a rigid point or cusp; referring to the leaves). The plant, although no great beauty, received an A.M. In 1912. It is quite decorative when well in flower; the flowers are white, single, small, and have a centre of yellow stamens; and the narrow, glossy green leaves (2 inches long) are sometimes purplish tinted.
It may be seen in the Temperate House at Kew: a tall, erect, slender shrub, quite pretty when in bloom, about April.
C. japonica (of Japan). The type plant is not listed in any catalogues I have consulted. But with so many of its beautiful varieties on the market (far superior in every way), probably nobody is particularly interested in it as a garden shrub. The species has a wider distribution than Japan only; it is found also in many parts of China and Korea. The plant reaches a height of 30 to 40 feet in its natural habitat – actually it is a smallish tree. The flower is rose-red, with 5 petals surrounding a centre of yellow stamens. The leaves, dark green above and paler beneath, are oval and from 3 to 4 inches long. The oil expressed from the seeds is used by Japanese women for dressing the hair, as is the oil of another species, namely Camellia oleifera.
C. malijlora (malformed; referring to the gynaeceum or pistil of the flower). Not listed in Hillier’s catalogue. It is not known in the wild and is probably of garden origin. Captain Rawes brought it to England in 1818; he is thought to have found it in a garden in some district in China. The flowers are small (ih inches across), double and of an exquisite shade of blush-rose; the leaves a dark glossy green and about 2 inches long. The plant makes a bushy shrub, with pendulous twigs and branches, and usually reaches a height of 6 to 8 feet. It blooms round about Christmas-time and is valuable on that account; unfortunately like so many winter-flowering shrubs, it is very seldom a success out of doors in the British Isles: it is best housed. At Kew there is a fine specimen in the conservatory and may be seen in full bloom about January.
C. oleifera (oil-yielding). This species was for many years confounded with C. sasatiqua, which was introduced into England about the same time as C. oleifera – about the beginning of the 19th century. C. sasanqua, however, has thinner, blunter leaves and smaller fruits. C. oleifera figures in the Botanical Register (t. 942 – 1825) and is described by Dr. Abel who found the plant growing in China as being ‘of the magnitude of a moderate-sized Cherry-tree . . . and bearing a profusion of large white single blossoms .. .’ He collected the plant in south China in 1820. He says, ‘It seems to flourish best in a red sandy soil on which few other plants will grow. The Chinese cultivate it in large plantations, and procure from its seed a pure esculent oil, by a very easy process.’ The Chinese also use it in the manufacture of a soap which the women use for shampooing the hair.
The plant is rarely seen in cultivation in Britain. It needs a very warm, sheltered spot in a warm district. Marchant’s catalogue says: ‘Its richly scented, five-petalled, white flowers start to open in November and continue until February. Cut blooms placed in water last some time.’ On the whole, Camellias are some of the best flowers for cutting, since they last many weeks.
C. taliensis (of regions adjacent to the Tali range, the Tali lake). This Camellia was first collected by Augustine Henry in 1897 at Yuanking; and in 1914 George Forrest saw it near Tali. Its habitat is Yunnan, Kweichow and Hunan, west China. Hillier’s have the plant and the catalogue (1966) described it: ‘An interesting new species related to C. sinensis, the Tea Plant. Leaves, bright green, Laurel-like; flowers axillary, cream with conspicuous yellow stamens.’ It usually makes a shrub 10 feet high, or more, with ovalish, smooth, dark green leaves, 3 to 6 inches long, and small white flowers in the leaf axils (the upper angle between the leaf and the stem it springs from). Like the preceding species, it will thrive and flower well only in our warmest counties. It is more attractive when in bud, or when the flower-buds are about to open. In a cold greenhouse it blooms from September to December and is thus a valuable shrub for a late display of flowers.
Not many other species are in cultivation in this country. Hillier offers C. drupifera: ‘akin to C. sasanqua, recently discovered at 3,000 feet on Lantan, near Hong Kong.’ (1966 catalogue.) C. granthamiana, from Hong Kong, with large parchment white flowers. C. hongkongensis, a tender species carrying 2-inch wide crimson flowers with prominent bright yellow anthers. C. tsai: a graceful, Chinese species resembling C. cuspidata; small white flowers but numerous; foliage copper coloured when young. They are on the tender side and do best in a cool greenhouse. None is as lovely as any of the garden varieties. And of these most collectors regard the varieties of Camellia reticulata as the loveliest. These garden Camellias, so prized by gardeners today, had been in cultivation by the Chinese for many centuries. Only in recent years were they introduced into Europe and the U.S.A., and most of them were collected around Kunming, the capital of Yunnan by Mr. Ralph Peer, the American Camellia specialist, with the help of Professor H. T. Tsai of the Yunnan Botanical Institute.
The following are obtainable from any good shrub nursery. One of the best known: tayinhung (synonym: shot silk) -brilliant pink flowers, with wavy petals, has been acclaimed by enthusiasts here and in the U.S.A. It received an A.M. In 1952.
Chang’s temple. A vigorous shrub of compact growth. The flowers often measure 8 inches across. They are pink, blotched white, paeony formed, with waved and spiralled petals. Mary Williams (single). One of the many garden forms raised from seed collected by George Forrest (No. 27165) near Tengyueh in western Yunnan. The flowers are at least 4 inches wide and are composed of from 6 to 8 broad petals, which are a deep shade of crimson. The Camellia received an A.M. In 1942. paochucha (noble pearl). Semi-double, large deep red flowers with crinkled petals. A.M. 1952. pagoda. Sometimes a double flower; large and of a deep scarlet colour. The shrub blooms in mid-winter in warm, southern climates. A magnificent and world-famous specimen, many years old, grows in the gardens of the Capital Hsishan Temple in Kunming. The width of the trunk at the base is 2 feet; and the plant is over 30 feet tall. A tree which astonishes all who see it. Professor tsai has medium-sized, rose-pink semi-double flowers, with wavy petals. Superba (single). One of the many seedlings raised from seed collected by George Forrest. The open flower measures 4 inches across and has 8 to 10 wide-spreading petals of a deep red colour shaded on the outside with crimson. Trewithin pink. This is a well-known form, likewise raised from seed collected by Forrest. The soft-pink flowers are semi-double and measure 4 inches across.
The average price of the reticulata Camellias is 42J. A plant. You won’t find any growing out of doors in inland gardens in the Home Counties, or as far north as London; for, even more than the japonica kinds, they need protection against cold, damp weather, and spring frosts. They flower in February and March as a rule, consequently the flowers need the warmth of the south and a place in a garden sheltered from winds. In Italy they flourish luxuriantly, growing into tall, wide shrubs covered with flowers. They are at their best during January and February.
Crosses between some of the species have resulted in many fine garden Camellias: C. saluenensis X C. japonica produced such lovely plants as the X williamsii hybrids, j. c. williams was the first of this cross to be distributed. It has single flowers, about 4 inches across, composed of from 6 to 8 petals, an exquisite dog-rose pink, surrounding a cluster of golden-yellow stamens. The leaves are matt, not glossy. The hybrid was raised by Mr. Williams at Caerhays Castle, Cornwall. The plants he chose were a pale pink form of C. saluenensis (grown from seed collected by Forrest in Yunnan) and C. japonica; and the result was one of the loveliest of all evergreen shrubs. It is easily increased by cuttings. An important thing to remember when planting, is that all the C. X williamsii hybrids need staking: they have inherited the quick, tall-growing habit of the parent C. saluenensis and may be damaged if swayed about by winds. An occasional pruning, judiciously done, will keep the shrubs shapely and tidy. Donation. Galled by Hillier one of the most outstanding Camellias raised in this country. (Parents: C. saluenensis X C. japonica donckelarii) . Large semi-double, clear self-pink flowers, opening fully to a deep peach shade. The petals, rounded, are often slightly notched at the tips. This Camellia was introduced by Colonel Stephenson R. Clarke of Borde Hill, Sussex and received an A.M. On 25th March, 1941. Good flowering plants 12 feet high may be seen in some of our southern gardens near the sea. Francis hanger (C. saluenensis X C. japonica alba simplex) . Beautiful pure white single flowers, with conspicuous centres of yellow stamens. It is of upright growth and one of the hardiest. The plant was raised at Wisley (R.H.S. Gardens), and given an A.M. On April 14th, 1953. mary christian (single). A variety recommended by many specialists. Excepting only the darker pink of its flowers, the shrub resembles j. c. Williams in every way.
November pink. In warm maritime districts (in Cornish and Devon gardens, for instance) this variety will carry its lovely pink flowers intermittently from October to April. It resembles, then, the November Cherry (Prunus subhirtella aulumnalis), which blooms, during the same period. The two would look good together; the taller Cherry, a deciduous tree whose branches are covered with small, semi-double whitish-pink flowers, should be behind the Camellia. Or perhaps the pink form autumnalis rosea would be even more striking. Cornish snow (C. saluenensis X C. cuspidata). Another beautiful hybrid raised at Caerhays, Cornwall, by Mr. J. C. Williams. It makes a charming garden shrub, with pure white flowers which come singly or in pairs. Each flower is composed of about 8 petals which surround a cluster of golden-yellow stamens. The leaves are small and a dark glossy green.
These hybrids flower freely, and over a long period; but unfortunately can only be grown out of doors in the warmest parts of the country.
Most of the C. sasanqua varieties were raised in Japan, where for centuries they have been special favourites with gardeners. Many hundreds of different kinds are known there, but very few here; they hardly vie with the bigger, more showy japonica and reticulata varieties, which most of us prefer to grow. They are late autumn and winter bloomers; they do best (like all the Camellias) in a protected spot and are excellent as wall-shrubs. In Japan during the winter C. sasanqua may often be seen full of lovely pink flowers, while the ground beneath is covered with snow.
The vast majority of the varieties have single flowers. Those I describe below are well-known in the U.S.A. Most of them were imported from Japan; others were raised from seed by different shrub specialists in America. Asahi-gai (single). An importation from Japan. It has a comparatively large flower – about 4 inches across, made up of 8 or 9 petals, slightly craped and of a rose-purple colour. The leaves are small and narrow and a pleasing shade of dark green.
Cleopatra (semi-double). The deep rose-coloured flower, with its conspicuous centre of bright yellow stamens, rather resembles the open flower of Cistus purpureus though it is not so fragile-looking as that evanescent flower. The plant is a strong-growing vigorous shrub, very lovely when in full bloom. It came from Japan in 1929. crimson tide (single). Another Cistus-like flower. The plant was raised in Alabama, U.S.A., and has purplish-pink flowers. Daydream (single). A large-flowered variety. The flower is made up of from 7 to 9 petals, white in colour, becoming pinkish at the margins; the centre is a cluster of short yellow stamens. The plant was raised in a nursery in Mobile, Alabama. Hana-yuki (single). Because of its slow-growing habit, this is a most useful shrub for small gardens and for limited spaces. Its flowers are noticeably cupped, especially just before they are fully developed. Pure white in colour, with showy yellow stamens; and small dark green leaves. Hebe (single). The flower is singular in form – the petals (seven) have their margins folded back, from the base to about half their length, which gives them the appearance of being widely separated from one another. They are oval when opened out. The colour is pink-purple. The leaves are a dark glossy green. The plant was raised from seed imported from Japan into the U.S.A. Hinode-gumo (single to semi-double). Among the most beautiful varieties that has come from Japan. The flowers are comparatively large, white flushed with soft rose-pink, the leaves narrow and dark green. Ko-gyoku (double). This is a slow-growing sasanqua variety of moderate height; it was introduced from Japan about 20 years ago. The flowers are quite small, Phlox-pink in colour; their doubleness makes the plant more popular with gardeners than many of the other varieties. Narumi-gata (single). The flowers are cupped at first. The petals craped, or crimped, are white flushed with pale rose at the edge, the stamens loosely arranged in the centre. Hillier’s catalogue (1966) describes it: ‘Probably the best sasanqua cultivated in Britain. Large, fragrant white flowers, tinted pink, commencing to flower in November.’ They have the musty scent (or smell) characteristic of the sasanqua group. The shrub was imported from Japan and is a vigorous plant for sheltered gardens. Nishemko (single). This variety was sent from Kew Botanical Gardens to America in 1948. The plant has smallish attractive flowers, pale pink shading off to almost white. You may see it in full bloom at Kew, usually at the end of November. Rosea (single). This is one of the oldest varieties known in England. The flowers, a delightful shade of rose, are medium-sized and flat when fully opened.
There is an enormous number of garden Camellias to choose from (perhaps only collectors will grow the species), and doubtless the most popular are the japonica kinds, one of the chief reasons being that they are some of the hardiest and most adaptable for cultivation in our gardens. Their flowers are more showy than those of the sasanqua varieties; true, they have not the prodigal loveliness of the reticulata Camellias, but they are hardier and do better in many of our inland gardens.
As I’ve already mentioned, there is a good show of the japonica varieties at Kew; and some very fine specimens may be seen in gardens around London.
As regards cultivation, all Camellias need a peaty, loamy soil, moist and in good heart, and do not like chalk or lime. It is best on the light side, coarse sand being added to loams that are too stiff. Mulching is very important: apply a 4-inch layer of rotted leaves every April.
Camellias, like Rhododendrons, revel in partial shade, such as that provided by thin woodland. They must have some sun, however, since it helps to ripen the wood and set the flower-buds. It seems that once the plants have become well established in good soil, and have been well tended in their young state, they can tolerate plenty of sun. In Spain, Portugal and Italy, for example, there are many fine Camellias as tall as trees, some flanking long avenues in full sun.
In the British Isles there are many places where they are not a success at all when grown out of doors. The northern counties are too cold for them and they must be grown under glass. Even in the warm south the flowers will suffer from exposure to heavy rains and battering winds. But it is our wind-swept north-east regions that are immitigably hostile to the plants. The finest specimens, those nearest approaching the tree-like Camellias of southern Europe, are those that grow in southwest Ireland and in gardens along the south-west coast of Scotland.
The best time for planting is late September or May. Yet I have known gardeners plant all through the summer, the shrubs being transferred from pots to the garden and kept supplied with water till the autumn rains came.
As regards manuring, no manure of any kind should be applied to newly-planted specimens, since it keeps the ground cold and sticky all through the winter months, which often proves fatal to the young shrubs. Mulching with rotted leaves and some leaf-mould is by far the best way to feed the shrubs (rotting leaves, by the way, contain more nutrition than the actual leaf-mould); apply after a good rain or after you have soaked the ground well. When the flower-buds begin to show and there is certainly no suggestion of frost, a little weak liquid manure may be given; unfortunately this can hardly ever be done, as the plants come into flower during the coldest days. But feeding can be done all through the summer; use some well-decayed cow manure; break it up (it should be old enough to almost powder) and work it in carefully round the shrubs; do not dig it in deep, or you will disturb the roots.
For the foliage: many gardeners apply a little weak soot-water occasionally. It should be given after a good shower of rain, or after you have watered, as should the liquid manure.
Camellias make incomparably lovely hedges: set the plants about 18 inches apart. And for a sunny spot choose preferably some of the sasanqua shrubs such as dainty bess of dense growth (rose-coloured flowers); and seafoam (white). The sasanqua varieties do not mind plenty of sun on them; their foliage is less susceptible to sun-burn than the foliage of the japonica varieties.
The hedge is best left as a free-flowering hedge, I think; though some gardeners like to clip it over lightly in late spring with shears. All that is wanted is an occasional tidying with the secateurs.
If you cannot grow Camellias in your garden, you can grow them in pots and tubs, provided you have a suitable place for them. They cannot be accommodated on a window-sill or in places where a potted Azalea will stand. Ideally they are grown in cool greenhouses which are efficiently ventilated. In a house, I think the best place for them is a hall; and on warm days (in March or April) they may be stood outside for a time.
Camellias are supplied in pots and should be left in the pot, if they are to be grown indoors. They will thrive and flower profusely and require little attention apart from watering when the soil becomes dry. It should never be allowed to dry out; you can test it by scraping away a little of the surface: if it is damp, don’t water; it should never be hard and powdery. The temperature of the room or the greenhouse will of course influence the condition of the soil.
Indoors it will be safe to give a little weak liquid manure once every 10 days when the flower-buds begin to show colour. Overhead spraying that moistens the foliage completely is very necessary for all indoor plants. Stand small Camellias in the sink to spray them; large ones put outside in the garden.
Watering should be far less frequent when the plants have finished flowering; stand them outside in a sheltered spot, and water when new growth commences.
Only after some years will the plants need repotting. Choose a larger pot (usually I use the next size: a 5-inch, then a 6-inch). Put a piece of broken flower-pot over the drainage-hole, if you like; use a suitable compost – loam, sand and sifted peat in equal parts (it must be fairly rich: richer than the garden soil). All new flower-pots must be well soaked before use, or they will absorb the moisture from the roots of the plants.
After the Camellia has finished flowering and the soil is dry, knock it out of its pot, stand the plant in a bucket of rain water for a day, and then re-pot it. Keep the new soil to within half an inch from the top so that you can water the plant more effectually.
Camellias are long-lived plants; some specimens in southern Europe and in Asia are well over a hundred years old; some of the tree-like kinds carry apparently a thousand flowers or more.
The ideal place for all Camellias is the warm south; in gardens in our warm southern counties they bloom freely; yet there is always the chance that the flowers may be damaged by high winds and sweeping rains. There is much to be said for growing them inside, or at least undercover. The plants themselves may not be as vigorous as those grown in the open, but the flowers will be unblemished and as good as any we see in the florists’.