Camellias blooming in November


I’m afraid that the preponderance of evidence is sufficient to conclude that I’m a slow learner (as if you hadn’t figured this before now). Through the years I’ve planted a handful of camellias in the autumn, and each time my effort is rewarded with failure by mid winter, though a few have survived with a live branch or two only to expire in the heat of July. Not yet convinced that I’m slow (or at least stubborn)? Here I go again.

Most camellias are sufficiently cold hardy to be planted in my northwestern Virginia garden without any bother, but my experience tells me that they are better to be planted in the spring, or at least a month before clearance time at the garden centers in late November. Still, today (in mid November) I’m finding it difficult to resist a handsome ‘Chansonette’ sasanqua camellia (above) that is chock full of double pink blooms.

The habit of ‘Chansonette’ is unlike most of the upright growing camellias that I’ve seen on frequent journeys through the southeast. Its branching is pendulous, but perhaps the form is best described as floppy, with branches sprawling in every direction on a low, spreading shrub, considerably wider than it is tall. It’s small leaves are a pleasant dark green, and glossy, and it bears flowers in dense clusters that go on for a month or longer in early autumn.

I have planted a number of other camellias in the garden (most in the spring so that they have transplanted quite easily), including spring blooming Camellia japonica, an autumn blooming sasanqua or two (though they are less cold hardy), and late autumn flowering Ackerman hybrids introduced by the National Arboretum that are blooming now. The japonicas flower in late March to early April in my cold natured garden, slightly ahead of the redbuds, but in competition with other early spring flowers.

‘Winter’s Star’ (above) begins to flower early in November, and I’ll admit that there could be a few flowers late in October, but the two shrubs have been overtaken by low hanging branches of the Golden Rain tree, which I have neglected to prune, though the camellias are treasured far more highly than the Rain tree.  The Encore azaleas have recently faded with freezing temperatures, and Knockout roses are winding down in the cold, so the camellias are alone in the spotlight, and I would be advised to cut them out of their cover so they could be enjoyed more fully.

Beside ‘Winter’s Star’ are three vigorous ‘Winter’s Interlude’ camellias (above) that are fully budded, and I hope to see some blooms this year. There have been none for several years, though it grows beautifully and buds heavily each autumn. In some years  it has scattered flowers after a few warm days in January, and the buds promise to open any day through the winter, until they dry out and drop off disappointingly in March.

I can’t recall, but it seems as if I had planted one or two of the white autumn blooming hybrids, ‘Snow Flurry’ or ‘Winter’s Snowman’, but there’s no evidence of either, and probably I was hoping to get around to planting them, and didn’t. I don’t see any in the garden center now, so this will have to wait until next year.

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