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.