Flower of the Week: Fall Blooming Camellia

Local gardeners explain the history and benefits of adding some Fall Blooming Camellia to your flowerbed, even during the cooler fall months.

Though not as well known as their spring-flowering cousins, fall-blooming camellias are wonderful landscape plants.

Sometimes referred to simply as from their scientific name, Camellia, fall-blooming camellias are a group of hardy, durable, evergreen shrubs native to Asia. The camellias make spectacular additions to partially shaded landscapes, offering evergreen foliage and showy flowers at a time of the year when most plants are going to bed for the winter.

This flower of thew week post was submitted by Maggie Wiles of Greenstreet Gardens. 

There are many varieties within the camellia group. Depending on the variety, blooms can be single, semi-double or fully double, mature height can range from 5 feet or so to more than 15 feet, and growth habit can be mounding or upright. Among the sasanquas, blooms come in shades of white, pink, lavender, purple and red.

Camellias were not known in western societies until 1869 when Dutch traders imported some specimens into Europe. It has a long history of cultivation in Japan for practical rather than decorative reasons. The leaves are used to make tea while the seeds or nuts are used to make tea seed oil, which is used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and cosmetic purposes. Tea oil has a higher calorific content than any other edible oil available naturally in Japan.

Camellias can take more sun than the camellia japonica, however all camellias might prefer some shade in the afternoon. Because camellias bloom during fall and early winter this makes their flowers susceptible to damage from cold winds that might arrive with an early cold front. For this reason, many designers will plant camellias on the south or east side of a home or structure where the blooms will be protected from cold.

In the landscape, camellias are useful as specimen shrubs or small trees, grouped together in beds to form a natural, evergreen hedge or as espalier (trained to grow flat against a wall or other structure). When you consider the attractive leaves of these evergreens coupled with blooms as pretty as a rose, you wonder why people would plant anything else.


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