The autumn camellias

Admittedly, my observational skills can be limited. If there’s a bloom or otherwise notable attribute, I won’t miss it. But, handfuls of camellias that now rise to ten feet in height were hardly noticed when flowers were scarce. Mostly, they were just big, green shrubs, backdrops to more colorful treasures.

And then, a year ago the autumn flowering camellias along the garden’s northern border flowered splendidly, and in early November a repeat performance seems near. No, nothing I did. Long before, I figured they’d do what they’d do, and a few scattered flowers were all I could expect. The sunlight exposure must not be just right, or something, but the blooms were delightful, even if there weren’t many.

Spring bloomers in the more shaded southern border flowered even more sporadically, so while camellias consumed an ever larger area of the garden, they were ignored with the exception of a ‘Winter’s Star’ (below) that peeked out from beneath a wide branching ‘Jane’ magnolia, often not beginning to flower until January, when it demanded my attention.

As if it had grown overnight, I noticed last year that one of two white autumn flowering camellias (‘Winter’s Snowman’, below) was loaded with blooms, and it towered above me. So did its pink flowered neighbor, and the three beneath the goldenrain tree. Now there were flowers, and I noticed.

There was no grand plan when the camellias were planted. Simply, they are evergreens that flower in late autumn and early spring. At no time did I consider this to be the start of a collection. There are hundreds of varieties commonly available while I’ve planted only a dozen, maybe a few more. None are uncommon, with most selected with cold hardiness in mind since they were planted during a period when winter lows dropped below zero several times. For too long, the camellias didn’t add much to the garden, but today, with plentiful blooms and more to come, they’re noticed.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Linus says:

    I think some of my camellia had to settle in before flowering. I planted a blooming winter snowman in the fall 5 years ago. I think this is the first time it’ll have bloomed since.

    In the meantime, I’ve planted several variegated camellia for year round interest. The variegation has muted a little since planting. Ideas on how to improve variegation contrast?

    1. Dave says:

      I planted several variegated Royal Flush camellias a year ago. The variegation varies with slight differences in sunlight exposure, but none show dramatic color contrasts. So, I haven’t figured it out yet.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    When we grew camellias, the earliest (except for those that bloomed at odd times) seemed to delay bloom until the rainy season started! Of course, that made them even sloppier to clean up. Because of the blight, we did not want the petals rotting on the ground or in the cans.

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