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Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Camellia Japonica is My Favorite Plant...This Week.

I'm Joining Loree at Danger Garden in posting about a favorite plant of the week. Click here to see what's tickling other bloggers' fancy this week.

Plant nerds may look away in disgust but I can't help loving this shrub with glossy  evergreen leaves and happier-than-Doris-Day flowers.  After reading Barbara Wise's post, "The Importance of Being Ordinary" (here,) I'm inspired to celebrate the ordinary simple pleasures of the garden as well as the exciting, new, and unusual.

The earliest of my camellias begins blooming in February and if you throw in the Camellia sasanquas, there's sometimes camellia bloom from January through June. The earliest to flower is the towering elderly camellia (pictured last in this post) inherited with the garden.  It's visible from my kitchen window and is a sure sign that spring is on the way!  As its petals drop, the bed beneath has a pink petal mulch for several weeks. 

Stolen directly from The Missouri Botanical site is the following information:
 
In its native areas of China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan, the camellia flourishes in shaded or semi-shaded positions, and sheltered in cold climates. Well-draining neutral to acid soil is essential. This plant dislikes changes in temperature, irregular watering or being moved. Even a change in humidity can cause it to drop its buds.  Hardy in zones 7 - 9, they can be grown indoors in colder climates during the cold months and taken outside in the summer and fall.   Until the buds open, keep at a maximum temperature of 45°F; then it may be kept a little warmer. After flowering keep about 45° to 50°F. Buds appear in clusters. Removing all but one will increase the size of the flower. Camellias last many years and can be grown as a shrub or small tree. Repot if necessary after flowering. Grow in light shade. Water fairly freely using tepid water and provide good drainage. Fertilize monthly in spring and summer with special acid fertilizer.  Can you imagine going to all that trouble? 


Japanese camellia is best known for its lovely white, red, pink or variegated flowers, two to five inches across, blooming from fall to spring in warmer areas and in early spring in cooler areas. A compact growing habit, glossy green foliage and a showy profusion of bloom account for the wide popularity of this large, handsome, long-lived shrub.
 When grown indoors, watch for aphids, mealybugs, mites and scale. Yellow leaves with green veins may mean too little acidity in the soil. Some flower bud dropping may be natural, but some may be caused by overwatering, more by underwatering, especially during summer or periods of low humidity. Limit pruning to removing dead or damaged wood, unproductive branches, and disproportionately long shoots. Shearing spoils the naturally attractive shape of the camellia. Prune right after flowering or during early summer to stimulate branching. Pruning later in the year can remove flower buds.  I personally rely on the heavy snows we get every few years that snap the branches in half. 


For page after page of images of a wide variety of Camellias, check out Plant Lust here.

These can take heavy pruning and one frequently sees them trimmed into a variety of unfortunate shapes. 

They make a nice informal evergreen hedge as well!

With all of the information about how to grow these in colder climates, I should probably share the secret to success with them in this area.  1.  Dig a hole. 2. Throw the bush in. 3. Stand back and watch it grow and bloom. The end.
 It's best for me to stay away from nurseries when these are in bloom because they like to follow me home.

They also grow well in containers!

Last but not least is this pink camellia that is very common in the older parts of town.  This was inherited with the house and is nearly 20 feet tall.  Huge chunks get taken down by heavy snow every few years but the thing just keeps growing back.

31 comments:

  1. That was a good post of Barbara's about embracing the ordinary, wasn't it? I love Camellias too. You have so many, I had no idea. I have one, which is just starting to color up its buds. I planted one when we first moved here, but then tried to move it a couple of years later because it was in too much shade. That killed it. Gorgeous pictures of such a luscious flower.

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    1. One of the things I love about them is that they can provide a good evergreen backgrop to beds and fade to the background during much of the year but in the spring, when lots of the herbacious plants are just emerging, the quiet background plants burst into bloom and announce that spring is near!

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  2. Beautiful flowers. I only have one, they don't thrive in my climate and alkaline soil.
    Love all your flowers!

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    1. Thanks Lisa. We're very fortunate to have acid soil that so many evergreens love.

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  3. I have a soft spot for camellias, I think it comes from moving to Seattle from Spokane and seeing them burst into bloom in the winter - like magic! The flowers are so romantic and sweet, how cold you not love them?

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    1. It is as much the time of their bloom as the blooms themselves that I love.

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  4. I love your secret to success with camellias! Dig hole, throw in bush! We are spoiled here in the PNW where these lovely flowers grow like weeds!

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  5. Even if they're as common as the dirt they grow in, I have a hard time seeing something as beautiful as the Camellia as ordinary. I had quite a few in my former, tiny, shady garden and I still miss them, especially the tall one by the back door with the luscious white flowers - with its glossy leaves, it was pretty even when it wasn't in flower. A Camellia was among the 1st plants I added to my current garden after we moved in and I'm still on the look-out for suitable spots for more. If only they weren't so touchy about our devilish Santa Ana winds...

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    1. They are beautiful year round, aren't they? Glad to hear that you love them as much as I.

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  6. C. japonica flowers are beautiful and oh so bountiful but then they start to die and insist on hanging on all brown and ugly. I wish they would die as nicely as the sasanquas or the C. x williamsii 'Donation'. I imagine there are some japonicas that drop their flowers cleanly but I don't know any off the top of my head.

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    1. I've seen the wet brown tissue paper camellias around but most of mine shower their petals down while they're still colorful and spread color on the beds beneath. Maybe it's that talk I had with them a few years ago about keeping themselves looking lovely rather than like a repository for soiled handkerchiefs.

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  7. I'm all for embracing things that are common because they grow well. Even I could follow your directions. Why, oh why have I no camellias?

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    1. They're perfect for tree lovers because they don't mind shade!

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  8. Camellias, a source of early spring cheer with its blooms that looks so delicate and yet quite tough. Still amazes me how they were at first grown under glass here presumed to be not hardy and it's not uncommon to hear very old and dilapidated Victorian glasshouses with camellias growing through the broken glass panels.

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    1. That's too cool, I had no Idea that was the case. Now I'll know if I ever come across such a sight. Thanks!

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  9. Ordinary? Not in Denver - it would be extraordinary here! Nice post.

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    1. I often forget how spoiled I am to be able to grow so many great plants. When I first moved to this area, just about everything seemed miraculous but familarity with such wonders has made many of them seem common place.

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  10. I really love these but they struggle here. But when I lived in SC they were everywhere. There's nothing ordinary about a camellia here, either. Yours are beauties!

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  11. These lovely blooms are anything but "ordinary" Maybe we think that because we see them everywhere. Could that be because they are so beautiful that everyone wants them?

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    1. You're right, the are exquisite. Barbara called plants that are widely loved and used ordinary and decided that ordinary is dependable, stalwart, and beautiful. Using her new definition, they are ordinary as well.

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  12. My Camellias were one of the first shrubs I planted when we moved here and saw so many of them in neighbours gardens. Two are covered in flowers at the moment but another two don't have any buds at all?! I wonder why. Your camellias are beautiful, enjoy!!

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    1. They are lovely and I'm glad you enjoy them as well. Can't imagine why some don't have buds.

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  13. There's no denying they're very pretty!

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    1. A solid diet of them would get old but blooming as they do in the late winter and spring, they provide a nice jolt of color just when our winter weary eyes need it.

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  14. I love camellias, but the deer at my parents' house seem to as well. They strip anything within reach over the winter, so we have to cage them until they get tall enough. I say "them," but my parents only have one camellia. It needs a better spot. It's in super dark dry shade. I'm bringing some interesting seedlings with me back to Washington. Can't wait to see what they turn into!

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    1. I'll be watching your posts to see what your seedlings become! The countdown continues until you're back in the wet northwest. Today the rain is pounding down sideways. We've had the wettest March on record (9 inches of rain!) and you may wonder what you've done when you arrive back here.

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  15. In our Maryland garden we have several camellia that have a few buds on them but rarely cover the bushes probably because the weather changes so drastically in the late winter early spring and confuses the little suckers. Now down in Florida they are already blooming when we arrive in January and taper off towards February. We haven't found a variety yet that are "late bloomers" for this location, but we shall keep trying. (We just like the green foliage up in Maryland and let it go at that).

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    1. It is very attractive foliage! Winter would be a great time to be in Florida! How long do you stay?

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Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.