Crazy for camellias

Though we have three well-established camellias in our garden – a japonica, a sasanqua and a third one known as the small-leaf tea camellia – I could not restrain myself from getting more after seeing a nice selection at the end-of-the-season clearance table of a local store. Also, I might add that, contrary to the general notion about the condition of plants with reduced prices, these were satisfactorily healthy, each with an identification tag, while some even had flower buds in which faint streaks of color could be seen.

Regardless of what kind they are, camellias are not plants for open fields; therefore, to grow successfully, they need to be planted in dappled shade and at sheltered locations where they can be spared from dry, cold winter winds. Fortunately, I was able to find sites in our back yard that get indirect sun, as well as protection by the nearby vegetation or the wall of the house. Also, the last bouts of rain we had left the soil very workable; so, to my relief, the whole process of planting my bargain finds was a breeze, especially since camellias are not planted deep, but rather along the soil level.

Camellias are indeed very versatile plants. They are evergreen and grow slowly, thus remaining of manageable size; the handsome, dark green foliage gives the shrubs a very distinct look. However, it is the spectacular flowers that are the show-stoppers, for a blooming shrub is truly an asset in the garden. In fact, by growing some of the different types available, the show can last from fall to late winter, when few plants are in bloom. And, aside from bringing our gardens to life during such times, the artistic-looking blooms are lovely in flower arrangements, especially the Ikebana type.

Although fairly carefree, some pests and diseases, such as scale, viruses and sooty mold, can bother camellias. If that happens, one can either refer to a good gardening book or call the Chesterfield Extension Office, where one of the friendly master gardeners will be more than willing to offer advice right on the phone.

Gita’s Tip of the Month
Try incorporating the colorful fall foliage, even those fallen on the ground, in Thanksgiving décor. What better way to invite nature indoors than by using leaves of such brilliant hues?


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