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Camellias are one of my favorite flowers. I remember seeing them for the first time when I moved to North Carolina, I couldnot get over the fact that they frequently bloom during the cold months.
Depending on the variety, camellias can bloom anytime from the fall through the winter or in the spring. Flower buds are usually hardy, so they may not be damaged by freezing temperatures. Once the flowers open, they are more susceptible to damage. If you’re concerned about losing some flowers during the colder months, simply choose early or late blooming varieties. These are less likely to be damaged by cold.
There are so many kinds of camellias available that it can be confusing. How can you go about choosing? By all means take the flower color and hardiness into account. The least hardy would probably be some varieties of Camellia reticulata. Otherwise, you can choose from many varieties of camellias, including ones originating from Camellia sasanqua, C. reticulata, and others.
The blossoms of the camellia can vary from one variety to another. Flowers may be single, semi-double, peony, anemone, or formal-double.
Monrovia Nursery has released an excellent group of camellias, the Ice Angels series. It includes eight different ones, all of which are reliable blooming plants. Depending on the cultivar, these bloom in fall or winter. They are very hardy, to minus 10 degrees F. However, keep in mind that the rest of the plant may be hardier than the open flowers and flower buds. Betty Sette has rich rose-red blossoms with yellow centers. It is one of the later blooming ones in the series as is Spring’s Promise. The flowers open from January to March.
'Betty Sette' camellia can reach six to eight feet in height and about four to six feet wide. Its glossy foliage is dark forest green. April Remembered is the latest to bloom. Its four-inch wide flowers are semi-double, cream to pink. It is about six to eight feet and wide. Survivor and Winter’s Snowman have whitish blooms. Masons Farm has white flowers, but they are tinged with pink. Winter’s Fire blossoms are a vivid red-pink, while those of Ice Follies is shocking pink.
Camellias have enjoyed such a long association with the South. Some might even think they’re native to the area. The flowering camellia came to England by way of China. Originally the British attempted to get tea plants (Camellia sinensis) from China. The Chinese substituted flowering camellias for the tea plants in an attempt to keep the tea trade to themselves. Happily, the English recognized the beauty of the camellia.
Originally from Asia, some camellias have almost disappeared in parts of their original homeland. Recently botanists discovered some growing in very remote islands in Japan and Korea.
Camellias, which are perfect plants for partial shade, are at their perfection during the cooler months of the year.
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