See that beautiful, fresh spot of color in the garden, when everything else is fading into fall?? Well, more than likely it is a fall blooming Camellia, otherwise known as Camellia Sasanqua, one of the most floriferous and feminine blooms happening in the fall garden.
Camellia Sasanqua is a shrub that came from the woodlands of China, Japan and Korea. It was exported in 1692 and was introduced to Europe in the 18th Century. Initially Camellias were thought to be an indoor plant. Plant aficionados in the South figured out that they were warm enough and that the conditions were right to grow it in the garden. One place where one of the original Camellias still survives from the original initial planting in the 18th Century is at Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina. The most extensive collection of Camellias was started here by Rev. John Grimke-Drayton. (If you have never been to Magnolia Plantation, it ia a must see at any time of the year!!)
Growing Camellias is easier than you think.. Keeping the soil at a 6.5 ph, a tad moist but not soggy, regular irrigation, protected from winds, semi shade (although there are newer cultivars that do not mind sun), a little fertilization when they are not in bloom (I use fish emulsion twice a year) and no underplanting required. Camellias love to not have their feet (roots) stimulated or disturbed.
One major pest to be cautious of is scale. Scale can devastate a Camellia in a season and can spread from plant to plant. One other common issue is petal blight. This fungal disease can move to quickly end a perfectly floriferous explosion of bloom. When the flowers are brownish along the edges of the bloom, this is sure-fire sign that blight has come to visit. The browning blooms tend to fall off in 24 hours or so. Not a good thing – diminished bloom never is!!! Garden hygiene is the best way to combat this disease – cleaning up all fallen blooms and a fresh mulching usually does the trick. There are chemicals to aid in fighting this fungal disease, check with a reputable nursery for these products. Other than these two issues, Camellias are generally carefree shrubs.
Pruning to keep the height within reason and structural presence is also essential. Camellia Forest Nursery suggests pruning new growth when it is half hardened. This practice will increase the density of the shrub and maintain a healthy form and reachable height. As with most evergreens, circulation throughout the shrub will minimize hiding pests and circulatory diseases. There are dwarf cultivars and new colors, as well as increased hardiness for colder zones, as research continues for this Lady of the autumnal garden. Camelias are also great for espaliering along a wall, which makes a great winter statement of bloom in the garden.
When the leaves are falling and the garden is waning, you can almost always count on the fall femininity of the Camellia Sasanqua in the garden…….YOU CAN GROW THAT!!by