I have now spent fourteen months trying to identify with certainty the many camellias at Mt Edgcumbe which appear to be wrongly named. I have had my successes but they are woefully outnumbered by my failures.
What is lacking is a range of characteristics that, if not set in stone, are at least reasonably consistent in all the plants of a particular variety, irrespective of the climate, season, location, growing conditions and so on.
The size, shape and colour of the blooms is so variable as to be almost useless, certainly without corroborating evidence. Leaves and shoots are no better, with big variations in size, shape and edge serrations even on the same shoot.
Comparing a specimen in hand with a description is rarely very useful except when the differences are substantial and an identity can be ruled out. The flower should be red but is in fact white.
One feature I have found myself using is the nature of the new shoots. For any given variety there are several characteristics that seem to be reasonably consistent over a complete plant and between plants of the same variety, even in substantially different growing conditions. These are:
1)Timing of production of new growth.
2)Colour and pigmentation of upper and lower surface of the leaf, petiole and shoot.
3)Glossiness of upper and lower leaf surface.
4)Shape of the terminal bud on the new growth.
The colour differences are only apparent for the first few weeks after the shoot is produced.
The two shoots in this picture belong to ‘Tomorrow’s Dawn’ and ‘Tomorrow Park Hill’, growing within feet of each other in section E.
The variety ‘Tomorrow’ has produced the largest number of sports of any camellia but, as far as I know, the variants are all related to flower colour. The Camellia Register makes few references to characters other than the blooms and when it does it is to say that they are the same as ‘Tomorrow’ itself. I compared the foliage of ‘Tomorrow’ with that of ‘Tomorrow’s Dawn’ and they were indistinguishable. However, compared to ‘Tomorrow Park Hill’ they are quite different. The pigmentation of leaves and shoot is very clear in the shoot of ‘Tomorrow’s Dawn’ and is completely lacking in ‘Tomorrow Park Hill’
Ergo, it is not ‘Tomorrow Park Hill’. It is the same as the plant in 1G labelled ‘Nuccio’s Gem’, which I know to be wrong because it is pink and ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ is pure white.
In Area 6 is a plant with no label but marked on the map as ‘Fanny Bolis’. It should have formal double blooms that are white with red spots and streaks. It is actually a semi-double red. However, in the register it says that the name ‘Fanny Bolis’ was erroneously being applied to ‘Latifolia Variegated’ from the 1950’s onward. There are two plants in Area 1G labelled ‘Latifolia’ and I compared a shoot of so called ‘Fanny Bolis’ with them both. I got a perfect match with one, 1G-064; the other, 1G-063 is something quite different. I was able to corroborate the identification by comparing 1G-064 with a plant of ‘Latifolia’ in a garden elsewhere.
One step forward, one step back. 6-010 ‘Fanny Bolis’ is the same as 1G-064 ‘Latifolia’, the collection shrinks by one variety. 1G-064 ‘Latifolia’ is clearly different from 1G-063 ‘Latifolia’, it grows again. Sometimes my head hurts!