As cold weather approaches, a great portion of plants in the garden become either leafless or completely dormant; but not the camellias. In fact, these striking evergreens come to life by putting forth blooms from early fall through mid-winter, depending upon the kind grown.
In our modest garden the show begins just as summer ends when Camellia sinensis, the small-leaf tea camellia, comes to bloom, bearing delicate cream-colored flowers that have bright yellow centers; barely does the show come to an end when bold flowers of fall camellia, C.sasanqua, take the center stage, flaunting their spectacular pinkish-white color. Though both are equally lovely, the two camellias – that is, the difference in the size of the flowers, is noticeably distinct.
Still at bud stage at present is the all-too-familiar japonica camellia, which will open into semi-double red flowers in early to mid-winter, a sure remedy for overcoming the winter blues.
The elegant shrub blooms profusely, providing ample cut flowers to bring indoors or to use in arrangements.
Camellias are not plants of open fields; therefore, to grow successfully, plant them at sheltered locations in dappled shade, protected from cold, dry winds. At the time of planting, the top of the root ball needs to be at the level of the soil line and not any deeper; an acidic fertilizer or a natural amendment such as leaf mold is on the menu of these handsome, evergreen shrubs.
Camellias are not entirely trouble-free, as pests and diseases such as scale, aphids and sooty mold do bother them; help, however, is not very far. Available for tackling everyday plant problems such as these is a comprehensive resource called The Ortho Home Gardener’s Problem Solver. Published by Ortho, not only is the book easy to use, but it is accompanied by clear, diagnostic illustrations as well as solutions to treat the ailing plant. Another reliable source of help is the local extension office, where the friendly, knowledgeable staff is always willing to offer advice right on the phone.