“The bright yellow stamens of the camellia stand out like a glorious, golden crown”
Out of the gloom come these wonderful blooms, in pinks and whites and deepest rich reds. Camellias rule our gardens in winter as their bright stamens rise like golden crowns from the middle of the flurry of fabulous petals.
As regal as they are, camellias are also gracious in conquest, extending their realm by carpeting the ground with flowers.
They are also as tough as old boots, so there’s a place for them in every garden.
Put them in pots or grow as a hedge. You can topiarise them, espalier them against a wall, or drape them over an arbour. You can even grow them as a ground cover.
And they suit every garden style. So if yours is Asian, French provincial, cottage, formal or contemporary, and whether your garden is shady or not, there’s a camellia for you.
“Brighten up a dreary winter with a profusion of prettiness”
• Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and to a depth of the pot or bag.
• Improve soil with compost or aged cow manure.
• Soak plant in bucket of water before removing from pot.
• Ease out roots that are starting to encircle pot.
• Ensure soil around top of root ball is level with ground.
• Cover with leaf mulch or cow manure to a depth of 2.5cm.
• Stake for first 12 months if in a windy spot. Remove ties so they don’t ringbark the shrub.
• If you’re growing your camellia in a pot, it will need to be potted up every couple of years as it grows.
• Don’t use containers that are too large, but pot up into pots that are just 5cm larger in diameter than the old ones.
• Tease out the roots if they are becoming bound and use fresh, top-quality potting mix (azalea and rhododendron mix is also perfect for camellias) to give it a fresh round of nutrients.
• When replanting, ensure the soil at the top of the root ball is level with the soil in the pot.
• Fertilise after repotting with water soluble or slow-release fertiliser.
• Never let the soil dry out.
• Don’t stand pot in a saucer of water. Camellias need good drainage.
If you have a favourite camellia and you’d like more either for your garden or as a gift but the variety is no longer in nurseries, you can reproduce it with this simple trick, known as ‘approach grafting’. It’s best done in winter.
• Potted rootstock (or understock) and camellia in garden
• Clean secateurs
• Clean budding knife
• Budding tape
STEP 1 Place potted rootstock next to your favourite camellia (mother plant).
STEP 2 Remove any buds and side shoots from the rootstock with secateurs so the plant’s energy goes into growth rather than flower formation.
STEP 3 Remove a sliver of wood about 2-3cm long with the budding knife from a stem close to the top of the bush of both the mother plant and the rootstock so the plants’ cambiums are exposed.
STEP 4 ‘Approach’ the stems to each other so the cuts meet.
STEP 5 Use budding tape to wrap the 2 stems together firmly.
STEP 6 By spring, the union will have formed. Cut mother plant from rootstock with secateurs close to union, remove tape and watch your favourite camellia begin a new life.
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