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.


Area 3C has taken a battering.


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.

Aftermath of the Beast


The RHS Early Camellia Competition takes place at Rosemoor this coming weekend so I was interested to see whether there was anything at Mt Edgcumbe to suggest that anyone might have blooms to exhibit. I didn’t find any that were really show quality but at least there were a few putting on a bit of a show. I even managed a bit of sunshine for most of the pictures.

Provided we don’t get a repetition of last week’s horrors, they will bounce back quickly and in a week or two be looking really good.

Here is one that won’t be looking good in a week’s time. ‘Jitsugetsusei’ was a big bush in the singles section and sadly it has broken off at ground level. A classic Higo variety, it had masses of flowers on it, most ruined by the frost. There are some shoots coming up from where the main trunk broke which appear to be the variety, not a rootstock, so with luck it will be back in years to come. A young plant of it was planted in Area 3B in 2016, so it is at least secure in the collection.




Further down I encountered devastation on a much greater scale. At the top of the Amphitheatre, last Thursdays wind had brought down a number of trees, one a very tall Nothofagus dombeyi which crashed through the Japanese section 3C. It won’t be possible to see the full extent of the damage until the tree has been cleared but I would expect four or five plants to have suffered serious damage.

In the first picture you at first see nothing but look closely and the root of the fallen tree is in the centre of the picture with the top of it just reaching the conifer on the left. In the middle picture the towering evergreen tree in the centre is the second of the pair of Nothofagus dombeyi, planted no more than ten feet apart and leaning as much and in the same direction as the one that fell.

The last picture is what is left of Camellia ‘The Mikado’. As ghastly as it looks, it will eventually recover. My greatest concern is for ‘Takayama’, which is directly under the trunk out of picture to the right. It is the only one in the collection and is a beautiful variety.

In a few months time I shall look at the title I have given this piece and wonder what it’s about. The beast from the east found its way in to some usually fairly sheltered places and wreaked havoc.

Some of my volunteer days are uplifting, some are heartbreaking; today was one of the latter.

‘Ginryû’ & pitardii.


There is not the remotest reason for these two taxa to become confused. I should probably put my hand up and admit my culpability inasmuch as when I was working on a nursery and selling camellias, we had a variety labelled Camellia pitardii which I knew even then to be wrong.

We were buying in young plants from a wholesale grower who specialised in Camellias. We considered her to be highly reliable in respect of quality and accuracy of naming. We bought from her young plants under the name C. pitardii, potted them up, grew them on for a season or two and put them out for sale. In all likelihood plants were sold before any had flowered on the nursery, so we would not have had an opportunity to check. Nor, at the time, was I familiar with Camellia pitardii, so I probably would not have immediately realised it was wrong.

There will have been other Camellia growers who also obtained young plants from the same source and the plant at Mt Edgcumbe is recorded as having come from one of them.

At some point I did realise that it was not C. pitardii but had absolutely no idea what it actually was. When I came across a plant in a private garden with similar flowers I renewed my efforts to identify it. At Mt Edgcumbe there is a plant labelled Camellia x vernalis ‘Dawn’. That name is a synonym for Camellia x vernalis ‘Ginryû’. It looks very similar. I have been comparing the two over the last year and have concluded that they are the same variety, though the plant of ‘Ginryu’ at Mt Edgcumbe and the private garden specimen are virus infected whereas the plant labelled pitardii appears healthy.

Flower size, shape, number of petals are variable on both plants but very similar. Flowering time is the same. Flower buds are the same size and shape with the same light pink flush on the petal reverse.

Leaves are the same shape but about 5mm longer on pitardii which is enjoying better growing conditions. The degree of glossiness on both surfaces, petiole length, serrations, angle to stem are indistinguishable. Growth buds are the same shape, at the same degree of development and have the same silkiness on the scales.

I would love to have my thoughts on this confirmed by others. I would also love to know where the “C. pitardii” form originates from and how it came to be misnamed.

New season, new puzzles.

There is at Mount Edgcumbe a plant labelled Camellia pitardii, a name which I am as certain as I can be is wrong. That’s the easy bit; the challenge now is to identify it correctly.

It seems to me to bear a very close resemblance to another plant in the collection that is labelled Camellia x vernalis ‘Dawn’. According to the register, ‘Dawn’ is a synonym for ‘Ginryû’, a variety dating from 1789. As far as I can ascertain, from a limited number of pictures and descriptions, this is correctly named. The most obvious differences between the two plants are that “pitardii” is much freer flowering, with slightly larger and fuller flowers and that ‘Dawn’/’Ginryû’ is infected with virus, showing up as yellow mottling on its leaves.

‘Dawn’/’Ginryu’ is in a poor location, deeply shaded and dry, “pitardii” is in an open area with plenty of moisture.

The question in my mind is whether they are the same variety, with and without virus infection.

Puzzle number two is not one to which I expect or require an answer. Camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’ has to reckoned one of the world’s most successful Camellias. Camellia x williamsii ‘Fiona Colville’ is virtually unknown. It arose as a mutation on ‘Donation’ at Penheale Manor in Cornwall around 1960 and seems completely stable. Except for the deeper colour of its flowers it appears identical to ‘Donation’.

I would have thought that if the two plants were offered side by side the take up of each would be roughly equal. Of course, as soon as people know that one is ‘Donation’, they’ll go for it because of it’s reputation, except for the handful of people who want something that everyone else doesn’t have.

Puzzle number three concerns another pair of plants. The first is labelled Camellia japonica ‘California’, the second Camellia japonica ‘Firefalls’. Neither name is correct and the two plants appear to be the same variety. The collection records give no source for ‘California’ and for ‘Firefalls’ record it as having been a cutting from a plant in another section that is no longer there.

There is a marked similarity too with another pair in the collection, ‘Mrs Bertha Harms’ and ‘Spring Sonnet’, both wrongly identified and beside each other in the Betteley Collection at Area 1P. My first task is to decide whether they are all the same. That would be very puzzling. The next is to try and match them with something known.

A walk in the park

It being Tuesday, my day was spent at Mount Edgcumbe. There are still a few sections of Camellia plantings that I have not properly documented. One such is the first group of Camellias that was planted to get the collection off the ground. This was back in 1976, when 50 plants, donated by the International Camellia Society, were planted in the Formal Garden.

Well away from the rest of the collection as they are, it is an area I haven’t looked at in a while. Four were flowering.

Clockwise, according to their labels, they are ‘Winton’, ‘J C Williams’, ‘Beatrice Michael’ and ‘Cornish Snow’. Except that ‘J C Williams’ is wrong and ‘Cornish Snow’ didn’t have a label. There is work to do here.

I moved on to an area nearby called Gordon’s Glen. This is a steeply sloping and rocky area which was planted with camellias two years ago. Anticipating that there might be casualties and not expecting much blooming for a while, I have put off setting up a page for them on here. Almost all are duplicates of plants elsewhere in the collection. Most have buds; watch this space.

My next task was to put permanent labels onto the twenty three plants I had donated to the collection a month ago. Satisfyingly, eleven are new varieties and ten are duplicates of varieties represented by a single plant.

Not in collection:
C. japonica ‘Kujaku-tsubaki’
C. japonica ‘Gosho Zakura’
C. japonica ‘Haru-no-utena’
C. japonica ‘Candy Apple’
C. japonica ‘Mermaid’
C. sasanqua ‘Paradise Belinda’
C. x williamsii ‘Rendezvous’
C. hybrid ‘Superscent’
C. x williamsii ‘Mimosa Jury’
C. hybrid ‘Free Spirit’
C. japonica ‘Jules Verne’

One in collection:
C. japonica ‘Tama-no-ura’
C. japonica ‘Nuccio’s Gem’
C. hybrid ‘Apple Blossom’
C. japonica ‘Spring Sonnet’
C. x williamsii ‘Burwell’s Primus’
C. hybrid ‘Brian’
C. japonica ‘John Tooby’
C. x williamsii ‘Plymouth Beauty’
C. x williamsii ‘Monica Dance’

They will get added to their respective sections in due course.

On my way around I snapped away at anything I hadn’t done too many times before and came up with these. Click the images to see larger size with names.

Finally, to revisit a variety I have mentioned before. 1P-039 and 1P-040 are both labelled ‘Peter Betteley’ but it is clear that though similar, they are sister seedlings. 1P-040 has just opened its first bloom; two weeks ago 1P-039 already had several open, adding another small difference to a growing list. The plants are side by side in identical conditions. These are all of 1P-039, this week and last.

Sasanqua season – 4


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


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.