Camellias are amongst the world’s best flowering plants. They are hardy and disease resistant, most varieties have attractive, glossy green foliage, and they put on their fabulous flower display in the cooler months of the year when the rest of the garden often looks dull and bare.
Flower size, colour and form
Camellia flowers range in colour from pure white, through pink, to deepest red. They come in miniature, small, medium, medium large, large and very large sizes. There are also different flower forms or styles to choose from, including single, semi-double, anemone form, peony form, and formal double.
Using camellias in the garden
Camellias are tremendously versatile. Most of the thousands of cultivars now available have been bred from three species: Camellia japonica, C. sasanqua and C. reticulata. Japonicas and reticulatas are excellent garden specimens for semi-shaded positions, while sasanquas will take more sun, and make wonderful hedging plants that can be clipped into a formal style or left to grow naturally.
You may not have room in the backyard for a large camellia, but don’t forget, camellias are also amongst the best flowering pot plants in the world. As shown on Burke’s Backyard last week, a white camellia such as ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ planted in a white pot can add a real touch of class to any garden.
Camellias mentioned in our segment:
A japonica with large, semi double red-black flowers. The plant is bushy and upright, and grows quickly to about 3m (10′) tall. ‘Black Magic’ prefers a spot in semi-shade.
A formal double japonica, ‘Desire’ has pale pink inner petals edged with deeper pink. Blooms are produced from mid April to mid September. The plant has deep green leaves, and is a vigorous, fast grower.
This is the Burke’s Backyard recommended formal double white camellia, because it is such a good performer (lots of other white camellias do not perform well, because they drop their buds or develop other problems). ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ has medium-large, pure white formal blooms, with a spiral pattern in the petals. The flowers are produced from June to mid-September.
This japonica camellia is a sport of the Australian cultivar, ‘Aspasia Macarthur’. It has informal double creamy-white flowers, with rose or vermillion edges on the petals. It is named after Margaret Davis, the founding president of the Garden Clubs of Australia.
Camellias will grow in most areas apart from the hot tropics and inland. In areas with alkaline soils (such as around Adelaide), camellias may need to be grown in containers with potting mix for acid loving plants.
Camellias prefer a slightly acid, humus rich soil with good drainage, and do best with protection from hot sun. Fertilise in spring with camellia and azalea food, and mulch with compost (such as composted autumn leaves) or milled cow manure. Keep well watered, particularly when it is hot and dry.
Camellias are available at nurseries and garden centres.