‘Marge Miller’ was produced as a result of a pollination demonstration at Sydney University in 1978. It was taken home by the University’s gatekeeper who grew it, thought it was wonderful and named it after his wife. It is a magnificent weeping sasanqua with soft to mid pink flowers. It makes an excellent groundcover, and looks sensational planted on a bank or spilling over a rock wall. It is also very hardy, and flowers over several months of the year. Suitable areas to grow ‘Marge Miller’ include Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane and the mountains. In lime-rich soils around Adelaide camellias do well in pots. Choose a potting mix for acid loving plants.
Don thought that this plant, with its lovely pendulous habit, could possibly make a very good weeping standard. He decided to try grafting it onto a tall camellia understock, and the results have been spectacular. Unlike many weeping standards that thin out at the top, ‘Marge Miller’ holds its foliage high up on the plant.
You may think grafting is too difficult to attempt, but the technique described below (called Approach Grafting) is easy for the beginner. Why not have a go at grafting your own ‘Marge Miller’ – you’ll find it very satisfying and you’ll save hundreds of dollars!
How to Graft a Standard Camellia
Buy an understock camellia (we used the hybrid camellia ‘Dream Girl’) at least 1.2m (4′) tall. We used an understock that was 3m (10′) tall. Repot your understock into a larger pot and put a stake the same height as the plant into the pot. Note: The height of the understock you select at this stage is the final height of the standard camellia, because the grafted camellia will grow down towards the pot as a weeper. Buy a Camellia sasanqua ‘Marge Miller’ groundcover camellia and position the entire plant so that it’s level with the top of the understock plant. It will either need to be put on a stand or on a retaining wall to be at the right height (see Fig 1). Select a branch from ‘Marge Miller’ and remove a sliver of bark at least 5cm (2″) along its underside (see Fig 2a). Make the cut about 30cm (12″) from the tip of the shoot. Do the same to the understock but make the cut near the top of the shoot. Note: Before beginning, cut away any leaves or shoots around the stem so that there is room to graft. Place the two stems parallel to each other so the cut surfaces touch. Tie the two stems together using budding tape. Cover the area with tree wound dressing. As the wounds heal, they will grow together so making a graft. (See Fig 2b). Finally tie the scion (the shoot from ‘Marge Miller’) to the stake (see Fig 2c). Leave the two plants in their pots attached to their own root systems. Water and care for the plants as you would any other camellia. Note: If desired, more than one graft can be done at the same time onto different understocks but using the same pot of ‘Marge Miller’. After several months (maybe as long as 12 months) the graft will have taken (see Fig 3). At this stage the scion can be separated from the parent plant. The parent plant ‘Marge Miller’ can then be planted in the garden or used for further grafting. As your grafted camellia grows it will get fuller and reach further towards the ground. In about two years you will have a well-formed weeping standard.
Costs: Nursery grafted specimens cost $250-$400, depending on the maturity of the plant. DIY costs include a tall sasanqua camellia suitable for grafting at around $30, and ‘Marge Miller’ in a 200mm pot for about $15.
‘Marge Miller’ is available at specialist camellia nurseries around Australia, Green Gold Nurseries in NSW, Grow Master Nurseries in regional Victoria or by mail order (minimum order of $100) from Yamina Rare Plant Nursery in Victoria (details below).
Camellia Grove Nursery 8 Cattai Ridge Road, Glenorie 2157 Ph: 9652 1200
1666 Old Cleveland Road,
Phone: (07) 3390 1633
Fax: (07) 3390 1618
Newman’s Nursery North East Road Tea Tree Gully, 5091 Phone: (08) 8264 2661
Yamina Rare Plant Nursery
25 Moores Road
Monbulk, VIC, 3973
Phone: (03) 9756 6335 Fax: (03) 9752 0308
Web:www.yaminarareplants.com.au and email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Cole’s Nursery Lot 5, Beenyup Road Banjup, 6164 Phone: (08) 9417 9834