Camellias – What next!

Next weekend – well Thursday 28th August till Monday 2 September – we will be attending the National Congress for Camellias Australia in Melbourne, and as I understand, this is peak camellia flowering for them and we are looking forward to checking out the camellia shows being held. Interestingly, we have just walked our garden and commented that the camellias are past their best – our season is coming to an end.

Not that it’s over yet, we still have thousands of flowers out on a hundred or more shrubs. But, although our mornings and evenings are cool – well down to 4 and 6 degrees C – during the day we are having beautiful, warm to hot, dry days. It was about 23 degrees today and it has been some weeks since we have had rain. Great if you are on holidays in the best place on earth and with beaches to match, but not so good if you are a camellia. The dry air makes the flowers look sad after a few days and the plants are flat out trying to suck up enough moisture to keep them looking good.

I would love to be able to irrigate the entire gardens but we can’t.

Over the past few weeks, we have started to prune the sasanquas. These can be cut back hard at this time of the season – that’s the end of winter for us – the flowers are finished for the season and it is still a few weeks before they start to put on new growth. Cut back to shape and size. You can fertilise your plants now also, but be sure you can water them well – unless you are having or expecting rain. And by rain, I mean a good dose of rain – not a sprinkle. It is a good time to lay out new mulch. Rake over and around your bushes to mix the fertiliser into any remaining mulch – not too deep so as to disturb surface roots – but just to ensure the old mulch is not forming a barrier to any moisture getting down to the roots. Spread you new mulch over the top. Again, water it all in.

Leave the pruning of japonicas and hybrids until the flowering has finished over the coming weeks. Japonicas will start putting on new growth very quickly after finishing flowering – so long as we have had some nice rain.

Japs and hybrids will continue to flower for a while yet, and cultivars like Midnight Magic are still to hit full flower. Standouts in our garden are the NZ bred Nicky Crisp, Contemplation and Tamzin Coull, with the reticulatas in full flower and looking fantastic.

Tamzin Coull

This season, we have acquired a number of reticulatas to try in our garden. These have been purchased from a well established retail nursery who consistently sources plants from suppliers south of here. It is disappointing to find a couple of these plants flowering wrongly – well they are not really flowering wrongly – the plants are flowering just fine – they have just been incorrectly labeled. Last season, a Miss Tulare flowered a very nice formal double pink and is probably Simpatica, and this week, Sir Eric Pearce is flowering red and not the pink that Sir Eric is described as. We have other camellia fanatics who also purchased these named cultivars to have the same disappointment.

We can understand why the buying public get annoyed, confused and disillusioned when purchasing plants to find the flowers not what they expect. It was for this very reason that we started to do our own propagation for sasanquas, japonicas, hybrids and species – taking cuttings only from parent plants that are known to be correct and correctly named. We have now been very fortunate to have been given grafting material for a number of reticulatas which we know are correctly named. Thanks William…..see you in Melbourne.

Although these couple of plants have flowered not as expected, the flowers are still wonderous and beautiful and will still give us a great amount of pleasure in the years to come.

Reticulata Lady Pamela

Get out into the garden, relax and enjoy – it’s good for the soul, and the blood pressure.