Sasanqua season 2018

Looking back I see that my first post on sasanquas last year was on October 11 as well, so this year is pretty much in step with last, in spite of the Beast from the East and a prolonged drought.

I was at Mt Edgcumbe on Tuesday and having missed a week, was keen to see whether anything was flowering. I found ten plants in bloom, of eight different varieties.

First up was Tanya, in Area 1G. This is in a very exposed position on high ground open to the west and its blooms are small and often misshapen, though I am not sure the two things are connected. I have a plant of this variety in almost equally hostile conditions and its blooms are much better.

Tanya-4

Camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’ (1G-110)

Along Earls Drive most of the Camellias are on the steep bank to your right and not easy to get up to. However, along the left hand edge of the drive is a row of plants including three of C. sasanqua ‘New Dawn’. They are in quite deep shade and reluctant bloomers; I have still only seen blooms on two of them. Like ‘Tanya’, they are small, pink and pretty undistinguished.


Directly opposite them is a bush of Camellia sasanqua ‘Baronesa de Soutelinho’ and this was just opening its first bloom. These are white and about 5cm across.

Baronesa-de-Soutelinho-4

Camellia sasanqua ‘Baronesa de Soutelinho’ (5-006)

Moving on down to Area 10, the species section, two more varieties were performing. Camellia sasanqua ‘Plantation Pink’ has quite large blooms, 7cm or more across. There are two plants of it here but only the one more in the open was flowering. Right beside it a bush of Camellia hiemalis ‘Dazzler’ had a single bloom out. These are not huge, 6-7cm across, but are a vivid pink colour and semi-double.


Further down the hill Areas M and N form one large block in the shade of a group of massive London Plane trees. The planting is a bit too close and some robust pruning has been carried out this year. This is not ideal territory for sasanqua varieties but the two plants of Camellia sasanqua ‘Papaver’ flower reasonably well most years. The blooms are very pale pink, appearing white from a distance and generally very irregular in shape. They are around 8cm across.


In the bottom of the Amphitheatre the sections along one side are almost south facing and with several trees having fallen in the last couple of years, are becoming quite open. This is much to the liking of the sasanquas, less good for most of the other camellias that are there. In the Japanese section, Area 3C, there are two plants of Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’, one of which was badly damaged by a Nothofagus falling on it earlier this year. The other is a large open bush which always flowers well, producing large (10cm) single white blooms that are popular this late in the year with wasps and seemingly earwigs.


Area 1L is a little further along the same bank and also suffered extensive damage from a recent tree fall. Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’ was lucky enough to escape damage and is now getting several hours of sunlight a day instead of none, to its considerable benefit. The blooms are about 6cm across and are produced over a long period on a somewhat rangy bush. Taking pictures of it was made more interesting by the wasps nest at its foot but they seemed to have problems of their own as the nest had been attacked and scattered around by some intrepid beast.


The Photogaphs

Just looking at the two pictures of ‘Snow Flurry’ illustrates a couple of problems with photographing Camellias. The obvious one of being attacked by wasps is part of a wider problem of it often being difficult to get a good footing. The left hand picture was taken in dappled light, which sounds nice, looks nice and is a real pain when taking pictures. It means very high contrast between the sunlit and unlit parts of the picture. It means the bloom is lit as if by a spotlight being held by a drunk. It means the colour temperature doesn’t know whether to be bluish because of the shade or reddish because of the low autumn sunlight.

Light levels in winter are low and in the shade of trees still lower. It is often windy so the subject is often moving. Sometimes the sun is out one second, gone the next, making choosing camera settings tricky. I shoot in RAW but processing the images always takes place hours, sometimes days, after taking the shots. Tweaking images to get the colour as accurate as possible relies on remembering exactly what the colour was. Varieties like ‘Dazzler’, illustrated above, often have blue tones in them, especially after a slight frost. Just pulling a flower forward a bit so that it is in better light can significantly change the colour as seen by the camera. Our brains compensate so we don’t see it.

I adjust the colour on my desktop PC screen. It is much easier to see there than on the camera LCD screen. On my iPad the colours look a little different again. If I print images off, they can be very different from any of the on screen versions.

So take what you see in pictures with a pinch of salt.

 

Martha Brice.

There are two plants labelled Camellia japonica ‘Martha Brice’ in the Mt Edgcumbe collection, one in Australian Section 4C, the other in American Section 1E. They are quite different so at least one must be labelled incorrectly. I have concluded that it is the one in Area 4C that is correct, in spite of ‘Martha Brice’ being an American variety. I believe the plant in Area 1E to be another American variety, ‘Marie Bracey’.

4C-003-Martha-Bryce-02

Camellia japonica ‘Martha Brice’ (4C-003)

There are two plants labelled ‘Marie Bracey’ in Area 1H but they do not remotely match the description in the Register or either of the two “Martha Brice’s” and are presumably something else. They need not concern us here.

In 1987 Les Woodward wrote an article about the Mt Edgcumbe collection for the ICS Journal, listing all the varieties in the collection at that time. The list is not alphabetical, rather it looks like it was compiled from maps in the order they appeared on the page. It is therefore possible to work out which sections are being referred to, even though that information is not stated. In Section 1E ‘Marie Bracey’ is in the list.

In the collection records American folder, under Area 1E, is a piece of paper listing 12 varieties that are not on the pink list*. ‘Maria Bracey’ is one of the 12. Another note for Area 1E has 3 varieties “in tray” whatever that means. ‘Marie Bracey’ is one of them.
‘Marie Bracey’ was clearly in Area 1E at some point. In none of these lists is ‘Martha Brice’ ever mentioned, yet it appears on the map, whereas ‘Marie Bracey’ does not.

1E-026-Martha-Brice-01

Camellia japonica ‘Marie Bracey’ (1E-026) still labelled ‘Martha Brice’

The 1E plant labelled ‘Martha Brice’ fits the description of ‘Marie Bracey’ and matches the only picture I have seen of it. I believe someone has put the wrong name on the map and subsequently produced a label for the plant.

In the Camellia Register, ‘Martha Brice’ is described as semi-double, loose peony type, delicate soft pink. ‘Marie Bracey’ is described as coral-rose with 24-30 petals and 6-12 petaloids. These descriptions fit ‘Martha Brice’ 4C-003 and “Martha Brice”/’Marie Bracey’ 1E-026 reasonably well.

Marie-Bracey

Clue to mistaken identity.

There is however, an intriguing twist in the story.
‘Martha Brice’ was raised by Mrs E.M. Brice, Quitman, Georgia, and first flower in 1938
‘Marie Bracey’ was raised by Mrs H. Turner Brice, Valdosta, Georgia, and first bloomed in 1951.
Quitman to Valdosta is 17.5 miles on US-221.

(*) The pink list was a list of the collection compiled in 1990 as a handout for visitors.

Never say die.

Sometime around mid July last year a very large beech tree came down in section 1L, making a mess of a number of the camellias in the section. It was several weeks before the tree was completely cleared and the damage could be properly assessed.  At that time I noted that 8 were damaged but would recover, 2 were very badly damaged, necessitating their being cut down to about 2 ft and three had been broken off at ground level.

Damage

The split trunk to the right is what remains of the tree that fell across section 1L, covering all of the bare soil area with its branches.

Not expecting the last three to recover, and their being no sign of them doing so by the winter, a plant from another section that was struggling in waterlogged ground, was moved and planted alongside the spot where ‘Strawberry Parfait’ (1L-043) had been.
By the end of 2017 all of the damaged plants had started to shoot and this continued strongly throughout 2018. The plant that was moved in, ‘Turandot’, succumbed to the drought, but astonishingly, ‘Strawberry Parfait’ decided to make a comeback. It is now growing strongly. ‘Little Man’ (1L-022) was also razed to the ground and has started to grow again.

Little-Man-3

‘Little Man’ on 21 June & 7 August 2018

The two plants that were cut to two feet were ‘Kramer’s Beauty’ (1L-019) and ‘Garden Glory’ (1L-011). The regrowth on both is impressive and they look set to make a full recovery.

Kramers-Beauty

‘Kramer’s Beauty’ & ‘Garden Glory’ by 7 August 2018

The third of the ground level plants was another ‘Little Man’ (1L-021) and when I looked at it a few weeks ago there was no sign of growth. This was disappointing and somewhat surprising as there was some indication on the jagged six inch stump that callusing had been taking place. On Tuesday this week, roughly 14 months after the original devastation, I spotted green shoots emerging. Still less than half an inch high, they will need protecting if the plant is to recover. Hard things to kill, Camellias.

You looked? Well look again.

My note for 1G-006 ‘Blood of China’ is short and to the point, it should be solid red and is bicolored. It’s wrongly labelled, job done, move on, don’t need to look at that again. Well today I looked a little closer. What I saw was that there are bicolored flowers, almost solid red versions of the bicolored flowers and red flowers of a different hue, shape and with quite distinct foliage. Track which blooms are on which branches and it turns out that there are two plants together, one of which is ‘Blood of China’, the other probably ‘Comte de Gomer’.

That was first thing this morning. Practically the last thing I looked at, on my way to the car park, was ‘Rosemary Sawle’. There are two side by side in Area 9, quite different from each other. I concluded long ago that one was in fact ‘Olga Carlyon’. Today I noticed a particularly small bloom on the other plant. You can see it towards bottom right of the picture. Look closely and you will see that the main vertical stem has smaller leaves than the branches to the left with the larger flowers on them. Again, there are two plants together here, ‘Rosemary Sawle’ and probably a self sown seedling of a williamsii cross. In my defence this may be the first time that part of the bush has flowered.Rosemary-Sawle

It’s getting towards the end of Camellia season, except for a handful of stragglers. There was a lot to see today though and my camera was kept busy. Here are some highlights to enjoy.

Of Clouds and Silver Linings

View

I headed up to Mount Edgcumbe this morning, it being Tuesday. It was cloudy but dry when I set out. The Rame Peninsular, occupied at its eastern end by the Edgcumbe Estate, has its own climate. This morning it was 50m visibility fog, with a drizzle that was getting steadily heavier. I stayed an hour, then came home. I was getting wet and so was my camera.

The silver lining, and I’m clutching at straws here, is that cloudy is easier to deal with than bright sunshine when taking pictures of flowers. Bright sunshine creates harsh contrasts and the softer sunlight at either end of the day often impacts badly on accurate colour rendition.

Heavy cloud reduces light levels, meaning a wider aperture or slower speed or higher ISO is often needed. Flowers are very often moving, even in very light wind, so a sufficient shutter speed is needed to freeze the movement. A wider aperture means less depth of field, which means much of the picture will be out of focus. Blooms with well defined centres which draw the eye can work if the focus is sharp at that point, but less well defined flowers need a greater depth of field. Fortunately I can push the ISO on my camera to 800 or even 1600 without too much loss of picture quality.

Here then are some of the photos I took.

 

It’s an odd year, as usual

Every year is an odd year. When you revisit the same place year after year you really notice the differences.

This year at Mount Edgcumbe there seem to be a lot of exceptionally large blooms and a lot of exceptionally small blooms. That is, some varieties are flowering bigger than usual, some smaller.

Another oddity is that Lady St Clair has opened properly. Most years it only half opens, remaining cup shaped. This year, masses of blooms and every one fully open. It could almost fool you into thinking it is worth growing. I doubt it has done this more than one year in ten, in my experience.

Lady-St-Clair

Camellia japonica ‘Lady St Clair’

There are other, very similar varieties that open properly every year. ‘Ave Maria’ is one, and deservedly popular. One in the collection that is rather buried in the middle of the formal double section, so seen by almost no-one, is ‘Eleanor Hagood’. Its location makes it difficult to photograph as its very shady.

Eleanor-Hagood

Camellia japonica ‘Eleanor Hagood’

 

 

Camellia japonica ‘Augusto Leal de Gouveia Pinto’ is usually shortened to ‘Augusto Pinto’. It is a mainstay of the showbench and is a white margined sport of the red variety ‘Grand Sultan’. I have occasionally seen red blooms on bushes of ‘Augusto Pinto’. This bloom is a reminder that there is white in there too, though I am not aware of a pure white sport.

Augusto-Pinto

Camellia japonica ‘Augusto Leal de Gouveia Pinto’

And then there is this little lot.

I find it very hard to render colours consistently, taking photographs as I do in full, bright sun, in shade, in deeply overcast conditions and so on. It seems to me that these five plants are almost certainly the same variety. The flowers are the same size, shape and colour and are produced at the same time. They are all in the Mt Edgcumbe collection and they are all labelled something different. I lean towards ‘Comte de Gomer’ but haven’t altogether ruled out ‘Vittorio Emmanuel II’.
All inputs to the debate are welcome.

Joviality, sort of.

Perhaps NASA could just do a quick whizz by Mt Edgcumbe with their Jupiter probe and see if they can make sense of Jupiter, the camellia variety. They might make more sense than I can.

Oddly enough their probe is called Juno, which is a synonym for Jupiter in the camellia world. Not so very oddly, as Juno was Jupiter’s wife, able to see through the veil of clouds that Jupiter drew around himself to hide his mischief. What a scallywag! Jovian is the adjective that describes things pertaining to Jupiter and from jovian comes jovial.

The camellia now known correctly as ‘Jupiter (Paul)’ was renamed ‘Juno’ as the name Jupiter had already been applied to an earlier variety. In the Mt Edgcumbe collection are three plants labelled ‘Jupiter’ (1G-051, 1G-052 and 4A-026) and two labelled ‘Juno’ (2A-033 & 2A-034). The IG-051 plant is semi-double and easily dismissed as wrongly labelled. I’m still working on what it really is.

I have examined the foliage on the remaining four and have reached the conclusion that 4A-026, 2A-033 & 2A-034 are almost certainly the same but that 1G-052 is different. There are clear differences in both the shape and the glossiness of the leaves. All four plants have typical ‘Jupiter’ flowers. The likelihood is that 1G-052 is incorrect, but it is by no means certain.


It makes you wonder whether someone sowed seed of ‘Jupiter’ and when the seedlings turned out very similar to the parent, passed them on under the same name.

The Nothofagus that came down on Japanese section 3C has been partly cleared now and the news is not good. (Aftermath of the Beast) Six plants have been badly damaged, including the only ‘Takayama’ in the collection. Four more are quite bad and a further seven suffered some damage.  The second of the pair of Nothofagus looms threateningly overhead and is likely to be felled before it falls. I certainly wouldn’t go near it in anything above a light breeze.

3C-Japan

Area 3C has taken a battering.

Takayama

Camellia ‘Takayama’, sadly 75% of the bush is gone, including this bit.

The importance of having two plants of each variety becomes clear when something like this happens but the reality is that there are thousands of varieties not represented at all.