Camellias - So much more than a good "cupa"! We have a category in our plant database where we enter the uses for a particular plant species - there was only one word to put under Camellias and that was Versatile. In our opinion there is no other evergreen shrub that will reward the gardener as much as the undemanding yet top performing Camellia.
There are definite cultural requirements to guarantee top performance, however Camellias are remarkably tolerant and adaptable. They are invaluable for hedging, screening, background planting, container planting and as one-off stunning specimens. They trim well, transplant easily, and can provide flowers from as early as March through to November. Many have a delicate fragrance - especially species Camellias.
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When choosing a Camellia be aware that the word miniature usually describes the leaf and flower size rather than the size of the plant. However no need to worry about size really as on average most Camellias only grow to aproximately 2m. If you want your plant to stay under 2m then just give it a trim immediately after flowering. The flower colour ranges from white to pink and red with many wondrous variations on this theme. Flowers can be exquisitely simple and single to full, frilly, blowsy numbers. Whatever tickles your fancy.
Camellias are hapiest in what is described as acid soil. This usually means soil that does not have too much clay content. They like a nice peaty soil that drains well. You can work some peat into your soil if you feel it has a bit too much clay. The roots are fibrous (this means they dont have a long tap root) and near the surface so it is important to keep them cool in the heat of summer with a layer of mulch such as bark or compost.
If at all possible plant with protection from the afternoon sun. You can buy a specialized acid fertilizer to feed your Camellias which will assist them to stay healthy and keep the foliage the deep glossy green that we all love. Fertilizing is usually done in early autumn. Warning: remember when aplying fertilizer, less is always better than more i.e. follow the instructions.
If you are looking for early autumn flowering species, then as a general rule choose C. sasanqua (sa-sang-kwa) as they are usually the first to flower in March followed by C. japonica and C. reticulata. Camellia hybrids, and there are thousands of them, generally flower from May through to October. All are evergreen i.e. keep their leaves all year round.
If you are feeling a bit tired from thinking about all this gardening put your feet up and make a nice cupa knowing that it has been brewed from the leaves of the lovely Camellia sinensis. Camellias, good for your body, good for your soul.
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