Colourful camellias

by Adam Pasco

The mild March weather has produced some colourful displays of camellias in my garden. In fact, I think they're the best I've enjoyed for many, many years.

Pink camellia flowersWhat a superb spring it's been so far for camellias. The mild March weather has produced some colourful displays of camellias in my garden. In fact, I think they're the best I've enjoyed for many, many years.

My camellias are grown in three distinct ways. The oldest variety I grow, and the earliest to flower, is 'St Ewe', which I planted directly into my border soil. Now I wouldn't claim my clay soil is ideal for camellias, which enjoy a lime-free and water-retentive soil, but this one has certainly flourished. It also provides support for a Clematis viticella planted alongside, and I loosely train new shoots up the camellia as they grow.

Next come two camellias growing in raised beds in a shaded position. I built low brick walls to create the beds, filling them with ericaceous compost that I knew acid-loving plants would love. One bed provides a home to a much loved Rhododendron yakushimanum that was a gift to me on leaving a rhododendron nursery I worked at. By filling the beds with bags of compost I knew they would be weed-free (and still are after 15 years), and would provide perfect planting conditions.

Lastly comes a camellia growing in a large terracotta pot, again filled with ericaceous compost. Despite using the perfect compost I still feed my camellias with a liquid drench of iron sequestrene each spring. This helps prevent foliage becoming pale and yellow, providing the magnesium and other nutrients needed to keep their leaves deep green.

Perhaps it's the feeding that has helped create such a colourful show, or maybe the weather has just been kinder than in previous years. Whatever the reason, I'll enjoy them while they last. You never know when a night frost will creep up and put paid to the spectacle!

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Gardeners' World Web User 30/03/2009 at 17:54

So glad your C.w.x St Ewe is doing well as Trehern Nursery brought me one to the February RHS indoor show and I have just planted it out in the fernery garden.I too have clay, Ph7 but I did incorporate JI ericaceous as well. It replaced C.v.x Yuletide(single red)which probably wouldn't flower in such a shady spot as it needs some more sun to do well. I also have C. s. Quintessence(single pinky-white) in a large terracotta pot on a plinth in full sun, this is a wonderful cascading camellia, which the nursery grow in a hanging basket, but I did not have the courage or the faith in my watering abilities!

Gardeners' World Web User 31/03/2009 at 20:10

I planted my camellia (no idea what variety - a freebie!) in my new acid soil bed last year but the leaves look a rather sickly yellow. The walls surrounding it are cotswold limestone was this my major mistake? I have watered it with Azalea/camellia feed/sequesterone so hope it's going to survive. I have one bud on it which I'm watching daily.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/03/2009 at 20:43

I have a pale yellow camellia in a shady very sheltered border, in ericaceous compost and fed with azalea feed. It is the most gorgeous plant and has flowered it socks off the two years i have lived here (I inherited it). Still trying to propogate it for my dad who also loves it. I have several shocking pink ones in another part of the garden and love all of them.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/04/2009 at 21:40

Living in the far far south west of our sceptred isle, Camelias grow here very well - I have four - ranging from two pink, one white, and one red. The red variety has some very green leaves one side of the bush and some pale lime green leaves on the other side (all on the same plant). This does not seem to affect the flowers although the darker green side has more flowers, but looks a bit odd. What could make this happen and is it lacking in something? Last Summer we had plenty of rain but should I feed it with something and if so, what? Any ideas would be helpful. I always prune straight after flowering which alway gives a good show the following year. The bushes are at least ten years old but I don't think this is the problem.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/04/2009 at 23:02

I have a camelia in my front garden that is still tiny, but laiden with lovely pink flowers, I suppose a feed is in order even though it is doing well, it is a bit over crowded where it is but it's not complaining yet, if it does I will move it.

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