Don travelled to Kulnura, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, to meet leading camellia hybridist, Bob Cherry. Don asked Bob about his work on the development of new varieties of yellow-flowering camellias.
Although camellias are acknowledged worldwide as wonderful garden plants, some people are unhappy that the range of flower colours is limited to reds, pinks and whites. That’s why there was so much excitement in the 1970s when the yellow-flowering Camellia chrysantha was first brought into cultivation. Since that time, camellia breeders have been working with the yellow camellia (now known as C. nitidissima), hoping to develop a whole new range of hybrids with larger yellow flowers and double yellow flowers. They also hope to extend the colour range to include oranges, apricots and peaches.
Camellia nitidissima (formerly C. chrysantha)
This lanky, evergreen shrub grows naturally in the moist forests of Guangxi Province in southern China, close to the Vietnamese border. It has small, washed-out yellow flowers, only about 5cm (2″) in diameter. The foliage is shiny and attractive, with deeply indented veins. The new growth is reddish purple. Although there are other species of yellow camellias, this is the only one available on the market. It needs to be grown in dense shade, and is said to be a shy bloomer, prone to root rot.
A matter of time
Breeders have not yet achieved the results they expected, because when C. nitidissima is crossed, the yellow flowers are not passed on to the progeny. Bob said that at the moment he has managed to produce large flowered hybrids with just the faintest hint of yellow in the flowers. He thinks that all sorts of colour combinations are possible and it’s just a matter of time, but it will probably take 2 or 3 generations to produce the colours required.
Our segment was filmed at Paradise Plants, 2117 Greta Road, Kulnura NSW 2250.
Paradise Plants is a wholesale nursery not normally open to the public. However, the nursery holds regular open days for visitors during the camellia season (first weekend in May and first weekend in August).
There are very limited numbers of C. nitidissima available from specialist camellia nurseries, such as the ones listed below.
8 Cattai Ridge Road,
Ph: 9652 1200
1666 Old Cleveland Road
Phone: (07) 3390 1633
Fax: (07) 3390 1618
North East Road
Tea Tree Gully, 5091
Phone: (08) 8264 2661
John Cole’s Nursery
Lot 5, Beenyup Road
Phone: (08) 9417 9834