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.
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.
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.
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.