Sasanqua season – 4

Show-Girl-3

Or to put it another way, notes from my day at Mount Edgcumbe yesterday.

There were a lot of things blooming in the park yesterday. The sasanquas are in some cases going over, for example ‘Hugh Evans’, ‘Tanya’ and ‘Plantation Pink’. Some, for example ‘Narumigata’, ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Gay Sue’ are still in full flow, a few are just beginning, like ‘Kanjiro’. The sasanqua x reticulata hybrids ‘Flower Girl’ and ‘Show Girl’ are only just starting.

 

 

 

 

Of the rest, there are some that usually flower early, ‘Nobilissima’, ‘November Pink’, ‘Daikagura’ and ‘Gloire de Nantes’, and these are well into their stride. One of the ‘Peter Betteley’ seedlings and ‘Elizabeth Rose Open’ belong in this group. Then there are odd blooms dotted around pretty much at random, one on ‘Inspiration’, one on ‘Cheryll Lynn’, a few on ‘Alexander Black’.

‘Show Girl’ never fails to astonish me. The flowers are huge, that’s it at the top of the page, and produced in the depths of winter. They nevertheless show some measure of resistance to damage and are produced over a very long season. Their pale clear pink is not in the least strident and for all their size the overall effect, to my eye at least, is of refined showiness.

I think I may have solved the problem of the plant at 1G-014, which is labelled ‘Chansonette’ but produces large white single blooms. As noted in an earlier blog, I suspected it might be ‘Kenkyo’, based on some pictures I have of that variety from several years ago and supported by it being a variety that the nursery that supplied it listed. What I needed though was a growing and flowering plant of ‘Kenkyo’. To my very great satisfaction I found one at Trewithen on Monday. On flower form the only other variety it seemed likely to be was ‘Setsugekka’. Comparing all the photographs I have now amassed, it seemed to me that the stamen filaments of ‘Setsugekka’ are slender and cylindrical, compared to 1G-014 and ‘Kenkyo’ (Trewithen), where the filaments are stouter and thickest in the middle, tapering to both ends.
The difference in flower colour in the pictures is not significant as it is due to lighting conditions.
Comparing foliage, the leaves are all quite similar but those of ‘Setsugekka’ are held at roughly 90 degrees to the shoot, whereas on the other two, the leaves are angled well forward on the shoot. The petioles of ‘Setsugekka’ are also stouter and paler in colour. The difference in leaf angle is consistent across the bush, making it a more convincing diagnostic feature than the pictures might imply.

I am satisfied that 1G-014 is in fact ‘Kenkyo’, though I shall never be 100% confident. I shall recommend relabeling it as such.

Sasanqua season – 3

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Camellia taliensis

Yesterday, wanting a change from Mt Edgcumbe, I paid a visit to Trewithen. The garden is closed now for the season, reopening March 1st 2018, but head gardener Gary kindly let me loose with my camera. Part of the reason that the winter flowering camellias are not so well known is that many of the gardens where they are grown are shut during their flowering season, which kicks off in October and goes on until February, when the spring varieties take over.

I have never been to Trewithen at this time of year so I didn’t know what to expect, though I had a hunch it would be good and I wasn’t disappointed. I found a good range of varieties flowering freely. ‘Paradise Helen’ is a variety I haven’t seen in ten years or more; ‘Kenkyo’ I was very pleased to see as it may well enable me to resolve one of Mt Edgcumbe’s mystery plants and taliensis, well what can I possibly say about a fifteen foot plant covered in scented blooms on a dull day in the middle of November.

There were a few plants that I was unable to find a label for, I will check with Gary and label them in due course.

Trewithen is set fair to be a garden to watch. While I was there I was shown around the hugely ambitious and exciting new area they are developing. Even at this early stage the framework of ponds and wooded areas is looking like a fantastic canvas on which to create a new garden area.

 

Sasanqua season – 2

Sunday took me to the other side of Devon, to the garden of a camellia enthusiast with a particular liking for scented blooms. Outside of the National Collection it was certainly the biggest range of autumn/winter flowering camellias I have seen in one place.

Some were varieties I was familiar with, some varieties I knew of but hadn’t seen and some completely new to me. The “sasanquas”, as they are often collectively known, get overlooked by gardeners because they flower in winter and people don’t go garden visiting much in winter. Often the gardens where they are growing are closed. People don’t go to garden centres so much in the run-up to Christmas either.

This is unfortunate because they start to flower just as the very latest herbaceous perennials, asters, nerines and the like, finish. They typically produce a few flowers at a time over six to eight weeks though some will put on a more ostentatious but shorter lived display.

Let me add a little more about a few of the varieties I thought stood out.

‘Christmas Rose’ was the first variety I saw and was remarkable for the size and number of blooms on a still small plant as well as for the vivid pink colouring. The register has it as (C. x williamsii x c. hiemalis) and says it was raised in America.

‘Yume’ originated in Japan from the cross C. yuhsienensis x C. hiemalis ‘Shishigashira’. The petals are a mix of pink and white with very gradual shading between the two colours. The inner petals are generally closer to solid pink. It has a pleasant fragrance.

‘Souvenir de Claude Brivet’ was raised by Pépinières Thoby in France as a seedling of C. oleifera ‘Jaune’ x C. sasanqua ‘Crimson King’. The flowers are medium sized and may be solid pink or pink and white striped, with varying amounts of pink. I have not seen a totally white flower.

‘Narcissiflora’ is not a variety listed in the Camellia Register. The plant is being sold in garden centres, the stock originating from Holland. There are several varieties in cultivation with large single white blooms and it remains to be seen whether this new addition distinguishes itself in some way.

I should perhaps mention C. sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’ and C. sasanqua ‘Gay Sue’. They were there too and I didn’t photograph them because I already have numerous pictures of both. Both are excellent varieties.

 

Sasanqua season

Camellias-9

I put this montage together to post on Twitter but couldn’t do names. Here they are:

Row 1
Winter’s Toughie
Unknown
Hugh Evans
Rainbow
Daikagura
Plantation Pink

Row 2
Baronesa de Soutelinho
Tanya
Narumigata
November Pink
sasanqua
Paradise Glow

Row 3
Gloire de Nantes
Winter’s Dream
Lavender Queen
Gay Sue
Show Girl
Snow Flurry

Row 4
Papaver
Paradise Hilda
Shiro wabisuke
Sparkling Burgundy
Maiden’s Blush
Kanjiro

Row 5
Bonanza
Setsugekka
Navajo
Winter’s Rose
Dazzler
Winter’s Interlude

It seemed to be the large single white flowers that were causing me grief today. At 1G-014 is a spreading bush which is labelled ‘Chansonette’. It should therefore have small, bright pink double flowers. This is what it looks like.
Camellia-1G-014

Flower wise, it looks very like the two plants of ‘Setsugekka’ in 3C. This is what they look like.
Setsugekka-4

Both ‘Setsugekka’ are upright, fairly open plants. 1G-014 is low and wide spreading. My inclination is to regard that as unimportant.

In December 2016 I photographed the foliage of 1G-014 and ‘Setsugekka’ 3C-027  side by side.  ‘Setsugekka is on the left. It looks wet, which it may be, but it is glossier, the petioles
1G-014etc

are stouter and lighter coloured and the leaves are mostly at right angles to the shoot, compared to the more forward pointing leaves of 1G-014. These are small differences only discernible in a side by side comparison, but are enough to convince me that the two plants are different. I need to repeat the shot to show the undersides of the leaves and with a measure for size.

Back in 2016 I wrote another blog about this plant. Then I thought it might have been ‘Kenkyo’, a variety not in the collection. That was partly based on it being very similar in flower to the few pictures of Kenkyo that I have, partly on the fact that ‘Kenkyo’ was listed by the nursery who supplied it. If anyone with Kenkyo could provide me with a picture of the shoot to compare with the one above, I would be very grateful.

The next problem relates to 10-034 which is labelled ‘Narumigata’. There are in fact two different varieties planted together. One may be ‘Narumigata’, the other has a flower very like ‘Rainbow’ but a quite different leaf from the four plants of ‘Rainbow’ in this same section. The first picture is the flower on the plant that probably is ‘Narumigata’.
Not-Narumigata-2

On the right are shoots from the plant that is clearly not ‘Narumigata’ and from the adjacent plant of ‘Rainbow’ 10-047. The unidentified plant has longer, narrower leaves with twisted acuminate tips. Here are two of its flowers.
Not-Narumigata-1
As far as I am aware, this doesn’t match any other plant in the collection. Any thoughts on its identity would be welcome.

 

The season is under way.

It was late in the day before I finished my planned jobs and set off to see what I could find in flower. C. sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’ is flowering in areas 1G and 10. ‘Tanya’ is out in 1G but the flowers are small and few in number. It’s a variety with small leaves and a bushy habit that would make a great hedge but when it comes to flowering is a disappointment.

 

Also in 10 were two ‘Plantation Pink’s just getting started and what purport to be ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Narumigata’. The ‘Narumigata’ is almost certainly something else but I don’t know what. Down in the amphitheatre ‘Setsugekka’ had opened three blooms in Japanese section 3C and ‘Snow Flurry’, in 1L, was covered in white flowers.

Tree-damage

In this picture of the left hand half of 1L, ‘Snow Flurry’ is to the right of and behind the hornbeam towards the right side of shot. Just to the left of the Hornbeam is the broken trunk of a massive beech that came down on the camellias a couple of months ago. The tree has been removed and what was left of the camellias tidied up as best it could be. Most are already shooting but how the new growth will fare in winter remains to be seen. A couple of plants have nothing left above ground and a dozen or more suffered serious damage.

Some weeks after the beech came down, another tree further up the bank fell down, presumably because it was no longer sheltered by the beech. Fortunately it did no further damage. A stream runs across the picture and is buried in Persicaria campanulatus which is becoming a very serious weed in this area. On the positive side, it is providing quite a lot of flower for 10th October. I don’t know whether it is a good source of nectar and pollen for bees.

My three main tasks for the day were to clear away piles of fallen branches in area 4A, collect seeds and do some labelling.

Area 4A has suffered badly from trees falling or shedding branches onto it. Quite a lot had not been cleared away so I went in with a bow saw, cut it up and moved it out of the way of the camellias. 4A is very steep and I would like to open up an access path along the bottom in addition to the main ride along the top. It’s a work in progress.

Collecting seed was a task I started on a fortnight ago with one early variety. Last week I added another seven and today a further eight. Usually the pods begin to split, indicating their readiness; in one case the pods were dropping, though not splitting. My intention is to clean them up and put them into the RHS Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group seed exchange. Camellia seed must not dry out, as soon as I have extracted them from their pods I will put them into plastic bags and send them away.

seeds-1

Fruits of C. japonica ‘Merry Christmas’.

seeds-2

The seeds from the fruits above.

seeds-3

A large fruit, beginning to split open and looking like it will yield several seeds.

seeds-4

The contents of the fruit above, just two seeds.

 

 

 

 

One of the first things I did last year when I started working on the collection was to assign each individual plant a number. I am now putting those numbers onto the back of the plant’s labels, using a Brother label printer. Thus, for example, where before the two plants of ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ could only be narrowed down to area 1G, it is now easy to see which one we are referring to. Necessary, in this instance, because while one is correctly named, the other is not and remains unidentified.
label
With something like 1600 plants in the collection it is going to take some time but my hope is to complete the task by autumn of next year.

 

First of the season.

I almost missed it, but today, in my greenhouse, I spotted my first camellia flower of the 2017/18 season. Camellia sinensis ‘Benibana-cha’, flowering on a scruffy little plant about a foot tall that has been in the same 2 litre pot for several years. It has plenty of buds to come but sadly its new growth is paltry and I was unable to take any cuttings this year, again. I should put flags next to the plants that need a lot more TLC than they’re getting, they’d be harder to overlook.

The bloom has a strong aroma. I hesitate to say scent, or fragrance, to my nose it is the smell of an aromatic oil, the emphasis on oil rather than aromatic. Not unpleasant, but like new tarmac, you wouldn’t rate your chances of selling a perfume based on it.

Camellia-sinensis-'Benibana-cha'

Looking back, I see that I posted a tweet about it being my first camellia on 28 Sept last year.

What happens when nothing’s happening.

The flowering season for camellias at Mount Edgcumbe runs from October to May. Last summer I was still trying to sort out a host of nomenclatural issues from the 2015/16 flowering season. This summer there has not been much that I could add to that, so my last four weekly visits have been spent strimming around the camellias. Last summer a group of European students did the job, this year there were none.

Far be it from me to complain, but strimming bracken that is above my head, on slippery steep slopes, whilst being assailed by horseflies and tics, for zero remuneration, is not something I can pretend to enjoy. Satisfaction comes from standing back from a job well done and knowing that it was done with as much care as possible.

Mt-Edgcumbe-1

Before and after in area 1P

 

Mt-Edgcumbe-2

Before and after in area 1J.

I have also taken cuttings of a number of plants in the collection that are only represented by one specimen. One of these was C. caudate, which fell over last year but in spite of being completely prostrate, has survived to yield a batch of cuttings. It seemed likely that that standing it up would break the remaining tenuous link to its root system.

I have also done a small number of grafts, of two of the C. reticulata forms in the collection. I shall post a more detailed blog about that in due course.

The biggest problem with trying to get duplicates of all the plants in the collection is that it is difficult enough to keep on top of what is there now, without adding any more. One solution may be to try and get other people to take on one or more of the back up plants and to keep records of them as if they were part of the main collection.

Mt-Edgcumbe-3

My small mist system with 40 odd varieties of camellias.

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Cleft graft, tied and waxed.