Crazy About Camellias
Camellias make a tidal wave of bright blooms.
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A flowering shrub or tree can add a splash of color to any landscape, but when that plant happens to be a camellia, it's more like a tidal wave of bright blooms. Lots of new things are happening in the world of camellias, including more cold-hardy varieties, and new fragrances and colors.
Camellias are well-bred and regal shrubs and a shady garden is their kingdom. "Every year, new varieties come out, and I always want to have the new stuff," says Jim Randall.
Some new varieties of camellias are actually genetic mutations. This, for example, is a camellia from the Elegans family, which loves to sport or mutate. A sport is a mutation. Once a variety mutates, breeders try to propagate that sport and create a whole new camellia.
For example, this 'Chandleri Elegans' sported this 'Elegans Supreme'.
An observant breeder grafted it onto a variegated under-stock, or root system, to produce 'Variegated Elegans'. 'Elegans Variegated' eventually sported 'C. M. Wilson', which sported 'Elegans Splendor', which sported 'Elegans Champagne'.
For propagation, Randall uses two fairly simple methods — cutting and grafting. "To reproduce camellia through cutting, first we need a snip of a plant that we would like to reproduce," says Randall.
But if you want your camellia blooming sooner, Randall recommends crafting a graft. "This is my preference because you can have a blooming plant usually within two years, whereas a cutting may take three or four years."
- Cut the right length of the cutting, and then cut the leaves in half. Bevel two sides of the stem to expose the scion's cambium layer.
- Cut off the under-stock. According to Randall, the larger the under-stock is, the faster your scion is going to grow.
- Next, make a little cut across the top of the under-stock to set the scion in. Randall uses a screwdriver to open the slit and fit the scion into.
If you're into growing these beauties but space is an issue, there are several miniature camellias that do quite well on a porch in a pot. "You need a very good draining soil — that's very important — and you also need the right exposure," Randall says. "Eastern exposure or filtered shade is the best."
Tip: Don't compost your camellia blooms because they're susceptible to a fungal disease known as petal blight. Most compost piles won't heat up enough to kill the fungus so to be on the safe side, go ahead and trash them.
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