The early blooming Sasanqua camellias herald the start of months of delightful displays of colourful blossoms. Next to flower are the Japonica camellias, which are able to cope with shade and filtered light, and the Reticulata varieties which have gorgeous large flowers. Camellias flower from autumn through to spring depending on species and variety. They are usually long-living, with some surviving over 100 years. The Sinensis camellia from China is the tea plant, but it is rarely spotted in most gardens.
Camellia colours range from white, pink and red to maroon and purple – almost black – flowers. And their names are colourful to match: Bob Hope, Contemplation, Cornish Snow, Happy Holidays and Early Pearly are just a few. The hybridisation of camellias means there are thousands of different plants available, and flowers range in size from small, tightly petalled blooms to the more flamboyant varieties, nearly the size of a bread and butter plate. White camellias were a symbol of New Zealand women’s right to vote.
This greenhouse favourite of Christmas time, with its beautiful waxy bloom and glossy leaves, is hardier than most amateurs imagine, and does well if kept clear of severe frost and intelligently handled … The red and white selfs are the best and most floriferous, but there are pretty striped and fringed sorts procurable. Pears Cyclopaedia, 1932
The camellias bloom in winter when the skies are cold and gray,
When the sun shines at its weakest and the spring seems far away …
In shades of pink and creams and reds the colours one might name,
Each is an individual for no two look the same
(from The Beautiful Camellias by Francis Duggan)
the camellia pushes against the warm glass,
it has been looking into this room for 150 years
(from Halfway up the Mountain by Dorothy Hewett)
Do you enjoy the beauty of camellias in your part of the world?
[All camellias are from my Mum’s garden, except for the nursery example]