Aroma Gardens Landscape Design
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Plant of the Week 13/6/2009: Camellia japonica

Culture: Camellias are native to eastern and southern Asia. Camellias are highly adaptable with regard to heavy or light soils but they do tend to be very slightly drought tender. Camellia japonica are at their happiest in slightly acidic soils pH 6-7 (zones 6 - 9).

Position: In their native habitat Camellias are under-storey plants. Generally speaking, flower colour is the best delimiter for position. Reds and dark, rich pinks prefer part-sun to dappled-shade, whereas lighter pinks and whites prefer dappled-light to full-shade. White and lighter coloured blooms can suffer from dew-burn on the blossoms if they are exposed to direct morning sunlight.

Flowers: Camellia japonica In mid to late Autumn Camellia japonica commence blooming and continue through to August to September. My favourite C. japonicas are;

  • 'Nuccio's Gem' a white, perfectly formed, formal-double flower. 'Nuccio's Gem' tends to ball (see Balling note below) when mature so it needs disbudding to prevent this. With a growth of 2-3m 'Nuccio's Gem' is a good variety for hedging.
  • 'Betty Ridley' has soft pink, perfectly formed, formal-double flowers and has a long flowering season. 'Betty Ridley' 2m is good for hedging and forms a good screen.
  • 'Early Prince Frederick William' 1.5-2.5m, has baby pink, perfectly formed, formal-double flowers. When mature 'Early Prince Frederick William' is another variety that balls (see Balling note below).
  • 'Debutante' has a pretty pink informal double bloom and has a long flowering season. 2-2.5m.
  • 'Emperor of Russia' has strong upright growth 2-3m. 'Emperor of Russia' has bright crimson-red informal double blooms and is an attractive specimen plant.
  • 'Bob Hope' has a large dark red semi-double bloom with bright golden-yellow anthers. 'Bob Hope' is a strong compact grower to about 3m tall but only 1m wide so he is the perfect shrub for a narrow screen. 'Bob Hope' tolerates part-sun or shade, performs superbly and forms an excellent hedge.

Care: Camellia japonica is a tough plant, however, they do benefit from a 6 weekly application of Seasol and the addition of compost will improve the pH of the soil for them.

Balling Care: There are a couple of Camellia japonica varieties that tend to ball, in other words they form too many buds on the one stem which will result in either small, poorly formed blooms, or the buds turn brown and spoil the look of the plant. These excess blooms take a lot of energy out of the shrub and can markedly weaken the plant.
The solution is to disbud these profuse flowering varieties by twisting the excess buds off so that only one bud per stem remains. By disbudding these balling prone varieties you will reward with nicely formed blooms and a much stronger, healthier shrub in the end.