Saturday, March 5, 2011

Camellia, i think i love you....

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is to take a walk around the neighborhood and drool over other peoples gardens. I am sure they must think I am such a sticky-beak, always checking out their yards. But there is just so much beautiful inspiration to be found, right on your own street. Not to mention its a great way of seeing what will work well or not so well in your own garden.

One plant that I am starting to see more and more in my area of the Northwest is the Camellia. It is quite stunning, with its lush gardenia-like flowers (I am partial to the white ones) and the glossy dark evergreen leaves, they really are a thing of year round beauty. I have seen them to take a natural form which would be perfect in a country garden and I've also seen them hedged to take on a very formal almost French look, love it all!!

Here is a very basic Camellia 1-0-1 guide. I have never had a Camellia, I am so excited to learn all about them. Although I will be even more excited when I find one at the nursery, I am totally in love! 
- You Camellia will be my new baby this year. I can't wait to plant you

Establishing good growing conditions

  • Evaluate both your climate and suitable sunlight before planting (or transplanting). Camellias do best in moderate climates (summers in the 70s and 80s and winters remaining 10 to 15 degrees above zero at most times). Both heavy wind and high humidity put strains on camellias. If rhododendron and azalea do well in your area, there's a good chance camellias will as well. Although they are more susceptible to insects like aphids (hence the humidity caution). Camellias do well generally in climates such as the Pacific Northwest and the MidAtlantic states, the British Isles and Japan (their country of origin). Intense sun is another enemy.
  • Plan drainage carefully. Like clematis, camellias like their "feet" cool but not wet. Prepare soil with peat moss, rotted organic matter and add some sand if you have any remaining doubts about drainage.
  • Keep soil slightly to moderately acid. The lime that keeps your lilacs flourishing will send your camellias into immediate and possibly irretrievable funk.
  • Water during dry periods. In addition to good drainage, camellias need a steady supply of water. By the time you see dry leaves and withered buds, it's too late.

    reviving existing plantings 

  • Check growing conditions from the ones listed above to plan your revival-strategy. Start with sunlight, wind and possible drainage problems. If your camellia is not enormous, consider transplanting to an area with richer, better-drained soil and filtered sunlight.
  • Check for drainage by digging with a trowel or spade on both sides of your shrub. Holes should be at least 12 to 18 inches deep and 2 feet from each side of the camellia, to avoid root-damage. Go deep to determine what surrounding soil is like. A common failure in planting is to prepare good soil for existing roots without planning for growth. If your planting site is surrounded by heavy clay soil or lots of rocks, improve it with peat moss and organic matter on all sides of the plant--this enables roots to expand.
  • Examine leaves and stems to determine whether the problem is caused by insects such as aphids or mites. Consult a professional to find the gentlest way to deter them--adding harsh chemicals to an already-stressed plant just makes things worse. Regular applications of soapy water or a nontoxic oily spray may be all you need to return your camellia to beautiful blooming.

    Read more: How to Care for Camellias |

    Here is a wonderful diagram to show the array of flower styles. I would be thrilled to have anyone of these, but the Peony is calling my name, fingers crossed I can be lucky enough to find one in white!! I'll update when I find it hopefully this spring!

    This illustration comes from Stirling Macoboy's "The Illustrated Encyclopedia on Camellias" which has some wonderful color images of the different camellia varieties. Check back to see which one I go with, also, if you have any tips for growing these, I would LOVE to hear from you...thanks =)


    1. Great post! I do love camellias although I don't have any in my current garden. I planted one last year and the crazy voles ate the roots. I hope you find just the one that you want for your garden!

    2. I too do not have camellias but love the plant. Such a plant that screams southern hospitality. Hope you find them at your nursery and have a successful planting in your Northwest garden, they are gorgeous.

    3. I love camellias. They are getting more and more space in my garden. I hope you will get one - they are wonderful for extending your garden's bloom time.

    4. Oh I do admire this plant, but I don't think I can grow it in the Midwest. Very pretty though! I hope yours (whichever you choose) will be very happy in your garden. (And I *always* check out my neighbor's gardens! haha!)

    5. This past January was not kind to camellias in my garden but it isn't too late for some wonderful blooms. Camellias like acid soil and excellent drainage. You can root cuttings and grow from seed if you are patient, very patient -- it takes years. I need to spray for scale.

    6. I'll tell you a secret - I have BROWN Thumbs - Seriously! But I have lots of Camellias in my garden and they all thrive! They are not difficult plants - If a brown-thumb like me can get them to grow and flower then yours will do wonderfully!

    7. There are moments when we thought, flowers are brighter in someone else garden...

    8. never tried one here...but have always loved them...can't wait to see how yours does...isn't it funny how we all have at least one coveted plant we want or we will take such care to grow...

    9. I love camellias and think of them as a traditionally southern plant. I have two gorgeously blooming away for me right now. I love both the spring and fall varieties.

      I am not a talented gardener but the two things I always have to are camellias and gardenias.

    10. Camellias are fantastic. I so often have been hearing from my friends in the USA that they have difficulty in growing them.Here in Scotland the Summers are much cooler than yours and the Winters in our lowland areas where most people live are actually milder than yours. The one Camellia which thrives in our conditions is the Williamsii Donation, this is the one which I think you would have most success with.

    11. Thanks for all the lovely comments. I'll be sure to post pics and tell you about the Camellia I end up choosing/finding/falling in love with =)
      Karin - sorry to hear about the moles =(
      GWGT - Let the treasure hunt begin!
      Holley - I am so excited to have them blooming in my yard woo hoo!
      Hanni - Cheers to spying on neighbors yards ;)
      Jean - Thanks for the tip, I might try that as well, but I really am an impatient gardener (why can't it all look that magazine cover now!)lol!
      The Gardening Blog - Thanks for the vote of confidence...xx
      Donna - Its one of the exciting parts of gardening, its like winning a prize! You should try a Camellia too =)
      Lifeshighway - Gardenias are one of my fave flowers, the smell is them!
      Alistair - Thank you for your recommendation, I cant wait to read more about this one, fingers crossed they sell it here. I'm finding a rather limited selection =(
      I'm excited to find it!!
      Cheers Julia...xx

    12. Julia, are you a tea drinker? Did you know that tea leaves are from Camellia sinensis? I bought one. The leaves look like Camellias seen around here. It is still growing yet. Maybe by the end of summer I will be able to try some leaves. Thanks for following my blog! George


    Thanks for stopping by and reading my latest post! I love sharing my gardening adventures and reading your wonderful comments. Happy digging...Cheers Julia!!

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