February – HTA Plant of the Moment - Camellias for early colour

February – HTA Plant of the Moment - Camellias for early colour

Few hardy shrubs signal the end of winter better than camellias, highly valued for their stunning floral displays and fresh, glossy, evergreen foliage. With dozens of varieties available you’ll be spoilt for choice, so pick from camellias in shades of pink, red, white and cream.

Their ultimate size, habit and rate of growth vary immensely too, so consider how much space the camellia will need as it grows. Whether you’d like something that stays small and compact or will grow into a bold shrub or even a flowering hedge or screen, the choice is yours.

Camellia flowers vary in size and shape too, and their forms can be divided into six descriptive groups depending on the number of petals and their pattern or arrangement within the flower. These forms are described as Single, Semi-double, Anemone-form, Peony-form, Rose-form double or Formal double, so take your pick from the ones that most appeal.

Like azaleas and rhododendrons, camellias are ericaceous plants, and this means they need to grow in an acid or lime-free soil to ensure they stay healthy. A simple soil test kit available from garden centres can be used to check your soils acidity/alkalinity (often called its pH), and composts and fertilisers can be added to help make soil more acid.

Alternatively, compact varieties of camellia grow well in large pots or half-barrels filled with ericaceous compost, available in garden centres.

Grown in the right soil and position camellias usually flower reliably with little care and attention, growing larger over time to develop into impressive flowering shrubs. Most camellias rarely need pruning, but if they outgrow their position individual shoots can be shortened, and plants can even regrow well if cut back hard into old wood.

Where space is available develop a seasonal bed including a camellia or two and other evergreens and early flowering plants to provide welcome colour through late winter and into early spring.

 

TOP FOUR POPULAR CAMELLIAS FOR POTS OR BORDERS


Literally hundreds of camellia varieties are available from nurseries across the country with numerous colours, forms and sizes. Most have glossy green foliage, but some variegated varieties are also available. The very best camellias are given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the Royal Horticultural Society to indicate their superb garden performance, and here are some of the most popular.

‘Donation’

Semi-double rose-pink flowers. Upright habit. Strong growing.

‘Adolphe Audusson’
Bright red flowers. Strong growing.

‘Debbie’

Peony-form pink flower. Upright. Strong growing.

‘Lavinia Maggi’

Large double white flowers with pink stripes. Medium vigour.


TOP TIPS FOR GROWING COLOURFUL CAMELLIAS
 

  1. Early flowering camellias can be damaged by frost, so position plants in a sheltered part of your garden. Move pots to sheltered sites during bad weather. Cover bushes with sheets of fleece to protect buds and blooms on frosty nights, removing it once conditions warm-up in the morning.
  2. Water camellias with collected rain water if possible. Some tap water contains high levels of lime (often referred to as hard water), so avoid using this to water camellias and other ericaceous plants.
  3. Grown in chalky soil or irrigated with hard tap water the leaves of camellias usually turn pale and yellow. Feeding these plants with an ericaceous plant food or iron sequestrene can help them regain their glossy green appearance.
  4. Camellias start forming flower buds during late summer and autumn, so make sure plants never go short of water through the year or poor flower development and bud drop can result.
  5. Make the most of the green framework of camellias to provide support for summer flowering clematis. Plant clematis in the shade at the base of camellias, and let shoots scramble up and over stems to support their summer displays.


DID YOU KNOW?


Did you know that some camellias flower through autumn and into winter? Look out for varieties of Camellia sasanqua to provide this welcome winter colour. And as an added bonus their flowers are often wonderfully fragrant too!


OTHERS POPULAR CAMELLIAS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
 

  • ‘Anticipation’ – Double peony-form rose-pink flowers. Upright.
  • ‘Desire’ – Double white with pink edges. Upright growing.
  • ‘J.C.Williams’ – Peony-like double rose-pink flowers. Vigorous.
  • ‘Jury’s Yellow’ – Anemone-form white flowers, pale yellow centre. Compact. Upright.


CREATING PLANTING COMBINATIONS WITH CAMELLIAS


Choose a range of hardy shrubs, flowering perennials and bulbs to grow in combination with camellias, as well as a selection of ground covering plants that will spread out over the soil beneath bushes. Here are some popular choices:

  • Azaleas
  • Conifers, including yew
  • Crocus
  • Cyclamen
  • Daphne
  • Ferns
  • Forget-me-nots
  • Forsythia
  • Hydrangeas
  • Japanese Maples (Acer varieties)
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Narcissus
  • Pieris
  • Pulmonaria
  • Rhododendrons
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus varieties)
  • Tulips
  • Witch Hazel (Hamamellis) 

You might also be interested in:

Slugs and snails are back in top spot as the most-hated pest

Slugs and snails are back in top spot as the most-hated pest for gardeners, after a year of playing second fiddle to box tree moth. The slimy critters topped the annual RHS poll of the most asked-about pests and diseases, based on enquiries they received at their Gardening Advice Service.

Slugs and Snails 

Honey fungus was named most troublesome plant disease for the 21st year running, with RHS scientists identifying...

Read more...
It’s the perfect time to lay new lawns right now

It’s the perfect time to lay new lawns right now as the soil starts to warm up and new grass bursts into growth. Whether you choose seed mix or turf, select a mix which is suitable for the site. Think about the amount of light reaching the area, and how much wear it is likely to get, as well as the look you want to achieve. You’ll find specialist turf and seed grass mixes to suit your requirements in our garden centre here in , including lawn mixes for shady are...

Read more...
Plant your new potatoes now

Plant your new potatoes now and you’ll give yourself the best chance of an early harvest. Timing your planting is a bit of a lottery as there’s always the chance of a late frost, but you can usually risk it by late March. Just in case, keep some horticultural fleece handy (you’ll find fleece at our garden centre here in ) and throw a couple of layers over emerging foliage to protect it if the temperature drops.

 Plant your tubers with the “rose�...

Read more...
Sow beetroot for delicious early crops within a few weeks’ time

Sow beetroot for delicious early crops within a few weeks’ time. Beetroot are among the quickest and easiest of veg to get going in spring, and are just as happy in a roomy container as in the ground.

Sow Beetroot

Varieties include traditional purple ‘Boltardy’ and unusual striped heritage variety ‘Chioggia’, but there are lots more, including golden ones which don’t ‘bleed’: browse the seed racks here at the garden c...

Read more...