October 18, 2017

Camellia – Queen of the Spring

After a week of storms and floods the sun has at last begin to shine over the British Isles. The bushes and trees have responded, with a burst of bloom and the birds in my garden have begun their lively chatter as they begin to build their nests. The queen of the spring flowering shrubs, is of course the camellia, all year round it stands as a simple, leather leafed evergreen tree but come March it becomes smothered in bloom.

Flower of the week from YOUR garden to YOUR table:  27th March – 2 April  2017.

Botanical  Name: Camellia.  Common Name: Camellia.

The Camellia is a very slow growing bush, until it gets well established. The bushes are usually sold as potted specimens with just a single stem.

They need to be planted in an acid soil and pruned very lightly in the first few years to induce bushiness. They prefer full sun, but they will also cope with partial shade.

white camellia bushAll you need to grow them successfully is patience! Don’t look at your neighbour’s years old camellia bush in full flower and expect your newly bought specimen to flower similarly in the first few years. In its early years it will flower sparingly, but it is worth the wait. There are many types of cultivars from small flowered ( 6cm. across) to very large flowers ( 13cm. across), from single to double flowered with anemone and semi double in between. I prefer the fully double flowers which remind me of Britain’s most loved flower, the rose, which is not yet flowering in our gardens at this time of the year.

bi coloured semi double camellia
bi coloured semi double camellia

The leaves are fully evergreen and fully hardy and hardly suffer from any insect damage or disease. The main problem –  since the flowers open so early in the year is when the open flowers are caught out by  a night frosts that  frequently prevail during this month. The whole bush can be full of flowers one day and overnight each beauty can change to a brown puff of dead matter. This is especially common on the white varieties. Always try to plant your camellia close to a wall where the micro climate is warmer than the rest of the garden and therefore has a lesser risk of frost.  If you live in a particular frost pocket ensure when buying your plant that you have a specimen that flowers as late as possible.

pink camelia blooms arranged in water in bowl
pink camelia blooms arranged in water in bowl

Cutting Guide:

With the camellia being a slow growing bush it would be fool hardy to cut the flowers with a long stem, especially when the bush is still small as it would drastically reduce the size of your shrub. I prefer to cut each flower with just a short stem and arrange them in a posy in a shallow bowl

pink camelia blooms arranged in aqueous gel
pink camelia blooms arranged in aqueous gel

TOP TIP to keep the flowers in place: in a larger bowl fill the bowl first with clear glass  marbles, or with a water based gel which are both very effective, in a smaller bowl they can be squashed together in a way that they will rest on each other and keep in place together.

Good gardening ,

Boris Legarni .

About The Author

Profile photo of Boris Legarni

Boris inherited his green fingers from his mother, who was still planting potatoes and rhubarb in the sixties as she was afraid that they would once again be rationed. As a teenager he used to plant radishes in the corner of the school garden and sell them during break time for sixpence, to give his classmates a healthy crunchy snack. He and his wife both have had an allotment for years, but there is no competition – he does the planting and she does the harvesting and cooking. With a passion for growing anything edible, Boris has planted dozens of named fruit trees in his orchard. Nevertheless he is an avid flower arranger, and assists local communities and charities with his flower arrangements. Boris tells us that after so many years on the allotment he has made all the mistakes possible, and he will share with you his practice to make yours perfect!

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