I moved a plant.

Seriously though, I just moved a sizeable camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’ from my allotment to my garden. Here’s how it went.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’ on 24/10/2018

We had a good drop of rain a few days ago. I gave it a couple of days to drain away, but a reasonable amount of water in the soil is essential and it is rarely safe to lift plants this size until well into the autumn. There needs to have been a good deal of rain to get the soil below a large evergreen shrub really moist.

I reduced the size of the bush by about a third. This will help reduce stress on the plant while it grows a new root system and made lifting it a bit easier.


I have a narrow bladed, stainless steel spade that I like to use for the next stage, which is to cut round the rootball. I dig straight down all around the plant, just cutting through the soil and roots, without levering on the spade at all. Next I use my old rather worn down spade with a fibreglass handle to take out a wedge of soil outside the vertical cut. I then cut in under the root system at around 45 degrees and start to lever the plant up to break any roots that go straight down below the root ball. I might have had to chop through roots going straight down below the rootball but in this instance didn’t need to.


Once the plant is free, but while it is still in the hole, I chopped some of the soil away to reduce the size and weight of the root ball. My aim was to remove soil where there were insufficient roots to hold the soil in place. Since the root system was not evenly dense all around the plant, I cut more soil away on one side than the other.

I then pulled the plant out of its hole, remove a little more soil from the top and bottome of the rootball, taking care not to damage the base of the stem, before trimming the bits of root sticking out of the rootball flush. It’s hard to say how big a rootball a plant should have. Too small will leave the plant struggling to stay upright and get enough water; too big and moving the plant without the whole lot breaking away becomes very difficult.

Next I lifted the plant onto a sheet of polythene which I drew tightly up around the stem base and tied with polypropylene string. This wrapping needs to be tight as possible to help keep the rootball intact while it is moved.


I lifted the plant into my wheelbarrow and pushed it back the mile or so to my garden in the village. Got a few odd looks. Avoided curbs and potholes.

Dug a hole, popped the plant into it. Too deep, took it out, put a bit of soil back, put the plant back in, filled around the sides, working the soil down with the spade, gave it a good watering. Job’s a good’n. It will take at least two seasons for the root system to be extensive enough to withstand drought as well as it did before being moved, so I’ll be prepared to give it an occasional drench if it is needed. Being a sasanqua variety I didn’t even consider feeding it. Had it been a japonica or x williamsii I still probably wouldn’t feed it until its second season.

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Planted in new quarters.

I have lifted several hundred Camellias in this way, some 6 feet or more tall; some to be potted, some replanted in the ground. Very large plants will usually suffer a check but all have grown away after a couple of seasons settling in.

I am in Cornwall, UK. In areas with colder winters it would be better to move them at the end of the winter but they would then have less time to put down roots before conditions became dryer, so watering would be more likely to be needed.

ID time

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I grow a camellia under the name Camellia japonica ‘Campsii Alba’. It is the same as one in Moyclare Garden in Liskeard that is known by the same name. It also matches two of the three plants under that name in the Mount Edgcumbe collection. (5B-004 & 5C-003)

The third plant in the collection (5D-004) is different but I think it is more likely to be the correctly named one, in spite of the weight of numbers. I am fairly certain that my plant and the two similar Mt Edgcumbe plants were propagated from the Moyclare plant.

The Camellia Register describes it thus:

“The flower is full, spherical, regular and formed like a perfect rosette. The colour is pure, milk white. The petals, disposed in 7-8 rows, are of average size, rounded, close set, regularly imbricated from the circumference to the centre. Very early flowering.”

It would be helpful if a size for the flower was given. My plant and its kin have been flowering since well before Christmas. The other plant does not flower so early, my pictures of it have been taken in April. Both forms have small, pure white flowers about 5-7cm across. The 5D-004 form is almost always a formal double showing no stamens in its centre but I have on just one occasion seen a fully open flower with some stamens at the centre. The Moyclare plant always has anemone form flowers.

 

The Moyclare plant is probably at least 50 years old and will have been planted by Moira Reid. It is about 4m tall and flowers freely every year over a period of up to three months. The leaves are quite small for a japonica, glossy and robust. It’s a very fine variety and I would love to identify it correctly.

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Camellia japonica ‘Campsii Alba’ (5D-004)

Sasanqua season 2018 – 4

I made it back to Mt Edgcumbe on Tuesday after a three week absence to find that the sasanqua season there is all but over. On the other hand, there was a fair smattering of other things flowering and I ended up taking quite a lot of photos.

The sasanqua x reticulata hybrids are moving toward peak flowering. Usually ‘Show Girl’, especially the specimen in the species section, steals the show both on display and flower size. This year it is as good as ever but ‘Flower Girl’ is the best I’ve seen it and almost the equal of ‘Show Girl’.

‘Show Girl’ should be much more widely grown, it produces an astonishing display at a time of year when little else is around and seems able to withstand most of what the weather throws at it.

The Ackerman hybrids have done relatively well this year and have also stood out for the length of their flowering season. ‘Winter’s Toughie’ is good every year but makes a rather large and untidy bush. Light regular pruning would probably help. ‘Winter’s Rose’ and ‘Snow Flurry’ have both been excellent this year, helped by more light from the loss of tree cover. ‘Winter’s Rose’ is semi-weeping, wider than high, ‘Snow Flurry’ vigorous and upright. Both have given about six weeks of display. ‘Winter’s Charm’, growing nearby, has produced a few blooms, similar to ‘Winter’s Rose’ but on a more vigorous, upright bush, but is more shaded than the other two.

Another Ackerman hybrid, ‘Winter’s Joy’, seems reluctant to open out fully, which is unfortunate as it could be most attractive. I’ve not seen it behave like this in previous years.

C. hiemalis ‘Showa Supreme’ is represented by two plants in the collection in Section 1N, one of the shadiest areas. I don’t think this suits them and they never flower freely though this year is the best I’ve seen. This was a Nuccio raised seedling of ‘Showa-no-sakae’ with larger blooms. It’s wide spreading and dense, a good plant would be a fine thing; I must try to propagate it so it can be planted in a better location.

C. x williamsii ‘November Pink’ is usually true to its name, sometimes starting as early as late October. Not this year, just two or three blooms so far. Equally predictable are C. japonica ‘Gloire de Nantes’, C. japonica ‘Nobilissima’ and C. japonica ‘Daikagura’; all of them are flowering freely.

I was a bit more surprised to see C. japonica ‘Momijigari’, C. japonica ‘Bokuhan’ and C. japonica ‘Spring Promise’ with lots of blooms open. I don’t recall more than the occasional early bloom from previous years.

C. ‘Bokuhan’ is clearly one parent of both the plants labelled ‘Peter Betteley’. In an earlier blog I explained why I had concluded that, as similar as they undoubtedly are, they are not the same and seem to be sister seedlings. This year the flowers are as distinct from each other as I’ve ever seen them, though you still need to look carefully.

And then there were the rest. Mostly just one or two early blooms on varieties not especially noted for flowering early; unsurprising, given the summer we had.

Not a bad haul for 11th December. I think it’s going to be a good spring season but if the weather stays mild it may be an early one. Most plants seem to have set a heavy crop of buds and I’ve seen very little sign of them dropping. I have my fingers crossed.

 

Sasanqua season 2018 – 3

In my last post I waxed lyrical about how well two of the five bushes of Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’ had performed this year, with larger and fuller blooms than usual. What I failed to mention was that the other three had produced entirely average displays, with normal numbers of normal sized blooms.

Some plants had benefitted from the unusually hot summer but others hadn’t. Looking at the plants I would say that the two that had done unusually well were in more open locations, meaning that they received more light, including direct sunlight and were probably less in competition with nearby trees for water.

I have seen unusually big flowers on C. sasanqua ‘Narumigata’ at Moyclare in Liskeard but the Mount Edgcumbe plants have normal sized blooms. In general I would say that there have been more flowers than normal and in a minority of cases the blooms are bigger than usual. Some plants have fewer buds than normal.

Tentative conclusion: Higher temperatures meant lots of buds produced but also increased risk of drought. Where moisture was available plants produced larger than normal blooms but in most cases dryness offset the beneficial effect of temperature as far as bloom size was concerned. Where dryness became an issue early there was a negative impact on bud production, or perhaps some varieties are more sensitive than others.

I have often taken photos of flowers with a tape measure in front but you would need to do this over a period of years as well as keeping accurate weather records to reach solid conclusions. I don’t trust my recollections from a year ago and with good reason. I was convinced that the blooms on ‘Show Girl’ this year were comfortably the biggest ever but in fact they are the same as last year. About 14cm diameter. I have pictures.


Which makes me uncertain about the comments on ‘Hugh Evans’. Perhaps the two good plants have always been significantly better and I’ve just not noticed. If that were the case then some factor(s) other than weather would be indicated, perhaps some have a virus, or are in poorer soil. With plants, there are always so many factors in play that firm conclusions are almost impossible to make and the people who pretend otherwise may not be the experts they would have you believe they are.

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Camellia ‘Winter’s Rose’

A couple of plants in Section 1L have been outstanding this year too, ‘Snow Flurry’ and ‘Winter’s Rose’. Both are from Dr William Ackerman’s program of breeding cold hardy varieties aimed at extending the area where Camellias could be successfully grown in the USA. Both were planted in 2000 and this is the first year they have performed at all well. By far the biggest change in their fortunes was the loss of the mature beech tree under whose dense shade they were languishing. Add one hot summer and a level of maturity and you have two plants you’d recommend to anyone.

It goes to show how easy it can be to write something off as poor when all it needs is the right combination of location and time to prove itself very good indeed.

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Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’

Lastly, I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago of a sport on Camellia ‘Hugh Evans’ at Mount Edgcumbe. Sports on Camellia sasanqua are comparatively rare and I took a couple of cuttings from this shoot earlier in the summer but left a section of the mutated bit on the bush in case they failed. I was pleased to see the flower as it confirms there is still some on the parent bush. It’s most likely chimaeral so I’d like to grow it for a few years to be sure it’s stable before I launch it onto the world and make my fortune.

 

Sasanqua season 2018 – 2

I’d missed a week when I visited Mt. Edgcumbe on Tuesday and things had moved on a bit, lots more was in flower. First up was ‘Hugh Evans’ (1G-046) and it was immediately obvious that this is going to be a good year for at least some plants. The blooms on this bush are bigger than usual and the petals wider, to the point of overlapping, which they don’t usually do.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’

There are several plants of ‘Hugh Evans’ in the collection and the next one is in the species section. (10-022) Both the individual blooms and the overall display are by far the best I’ve seen on this variety.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’

In the same section, at 10-047, is a large spreading bush of ‘Rainbow’. This is flowering much as it always does and I have no complaints with that. The wasps were enjoying the nectar supply too.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Rainbow’

Further down, in Area 1N, are two bushes of ‘Lavender Queen’ (1N-036 & 1N-037). These are sporting a few more blooms than usual but they are the same small misshapen things it produces every year. When you see such a feeble display you wonder if there is something wrong with the plant as it seems hard to believe the variety would have remained in cultivation otherwise.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Lavender Queen’

Down in the lower Amphitheatre the Japanese section 3C has a few early bloomers, not all of them sasanquas. ‘Setsugekka’ is in full bloom but I covered that in my earlier blog. C. ‘Shiro-wabisuke’ is just beginning to open its beautifully perfumed flowers and C. japonica ‘Benidaikagura’ had a bloom open. It is usually the first of the japonicas to flower. Well back from the path and somewhat hidden from view is C. sasanqua ‘Mine-no-yuki’ (3C-022). This has pure white double flowers up to 6 or 7 cm across and had a few blooms open. Further along in 1L is ‘Snow Flurry’ (1L-040), which I mentioned in my earlier blog but could not ignore as it was looking superb.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine-no-yuki’ & Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’ (hybrid)

Next to ‘Snow Flurry’ is ‘Winter’s Rose’ (1L-055), a pretty semi-double light pink which always flowers quite well. Also in Area 1L are two bushes of ‘Maiden’s Blush’, an upright one down the front (1L-027) and an almost prostrate one at the back (1L-028), which is the one pictured.

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Camellia ‘Winter’s Rose’ (hybrid) & Camellia sasanqua ‘Maiden’s Blush’

Back home I have a bush of ‘Tanya’ on my allotment which puts the two plants of it at Mt Edgcumbe in the shade. I cannot believe that different growing conditions are the only explanation and seriously wonder whether the two plants in the collection are virus infected to the serious detriment of the flowers, in terms of size, quality and quantity. Probably the only way I shall ever know is to propagate mine then graft a piece of a Mt Edgcumbe plant onto it to transfer a virus if there is one. It’s around 4ft tall.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’

The other sasanqua variety I have at home is the one just outside my front window. There is much to be said for having winter flowering plants where they can be enjoyed from indoors and this one fits the bill perfectly.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Navajo’

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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.