Camellia japonica – The winter Rose

After the Camellia sasanqua has flowered in autumn, the Camellia japonica takes centre stage in winter. When everything else in the garden is dull, the Camellia japonica adds splashes of pink, red, white and mixed or variegated colours. For the remaining months of the year, these shapely, hardy evergreen shrubs, boast glossy foliage and are great garden fillers when planted either alone or en masse.

Depending on the cultivar, the japonica grows in a wide range of climates from subtropical to bitterly cold hills. There certainly is a romantic charm about the Camellia. Most garden enthusiasts admire them and all good gardeners know that the winter rose needs specific growing conditions:

·         During bud and flower formation, camellias need regular water but don’t want to be soaked.

·         If you are growing camellia in a pot, don’t let the pot stand in water and let the mixture be well-drained.

·         When it’s very hot, keep the roots cool.

·         Camellias don’t like direct sunlight – their leaves and buds can be sun burned easily yet they need just enough dappled light (not gloom) for bud and flower formation to take place.

·         Camellias are a little bit fussy when it comes soil PH –  they like it to be 5.5 to 6.5 – not too much more acidic and at least neutral but not higher than 7.

·         Disbudding during flowering, ensures the remaining buds gain more of the plant’s energy meaning the existing flowers and shrubs will last longer and grow bigger.

·         Pruning your camellias in early spring is advisable if you want to control the plant’s size.

·         Keeping an eye on pests and disease is the Bain in any gardener’s life. Luckily with Camellias, the list is fairly short. Keep your eyes peeled for scale, blossom blight and sooty mould.

The Camellia’s selection of blooms is vast – the species encompasses many flower forms or styles within the selection of cultivars:

·         Single

·         Semi Double

·         Anemone form

·         Peony form

·         Rose form

·         Formal double

Within each form, there is a multiplicity of shades of whites, pinks, reds and yellows and variegations and the displays are breathtakingly impressive.