Most visitors to Mt Edgcumbe will start at the top of the collection and work their way down. This will take them along the level path known as the Earl’s Drive, along both sides of which are planted camellias. One of the most prominent of these, in section 5A, not quite at the path edge but with nothing in front of it to spoil the view, is a large bush that every year is smothered in striking red flowers blotched heavily with white. It has no label on it and I have not produced one for it because I don’t know what it is.
On the original hand written plan for the area it is shown as Masayoshi/Donckelarri Improved, as in the picture above. According to the Camellia Register the two names refer to the same cultivar. In the version of the Register that I have there is a long entry discussing the numerous versions of the spelling of Doncklaerii but search the online version and it goes straight to ‘Masayoshi’ and though it directs you to the entry for ‘Doncklaerii’ for more information, I haven’t managed to find it. All I get when I search for ‘Donckelaerii’ is seedlings and sports. ‘Donckelaerii Improved’ doesn’t seem to come up anywhere.
It is in the entry for ‘Doncklaeri’ that various sports are listed: ‘Eugene Bolen’, ‘Ville de Nantes’ and ‘Lady Kay’. The latter two produced ‘Ville de Nantes Red’ and ‘Lady Kay Red’. The sports are not listed under the entry for ‘Masayoshi’.
In its own entry ‘Eugene Bolen’ is described as a solid red form of ‘Donckelaerii'(Masyoshi). The entry for ‘Ville de Nantes’ doesn’t say how it originated but lists ‘Ville de Nants Red’ as a self red sport, ‘Lady Kay’ as a peony form mutation and ‘Lady Kay Red’ as her self red form.
Down in the Amphitheatre in section 3C is another plant identified as ‘Masayoshi’, somewhat buried in rather close planting. This does have a label and also has white blotched red flowers. It is however clearly quite different from the 5A plant. The flowers are smaller and brighter red and the foliage is glossier and significantly narrower. It was planted much later than the 5A plant in 2002 though for neither is a source given in the collection records.
There are plants of ‘Eugene Bolen’ and ‘Ville de Nantes Red’ elsewhere in the collection and I have compared both with these and with pictures in books and online. I am satisfied that the 3C plant is the correct one, which leaves me without a name for the 5A plant.
Which is where it all gets interesting. The older plants in section 5A are amongst the first to be have been planted in the early years of the collection, probably in the early 1980’s. While there appears to be no record of where they came from they are thought to have been donated as cuttings from notable collections such as Windsor Great Park and Wisley. Wisley do seem to have quite a few of the same old and fairly obscure varieties that are amomng the early Mt Edgcumbe plantings. They have, on Battlestone Hill, a fine bush labelled ‘Masayoshi’, which I have photographs of, which is, I believe, the same as the incorrectly identified 5A plant.
I was recently sent some samples from the Wisley plant, so I was able to compare the foliage side by side with the Mt Edgcumbe plant. Taking account of the fact that the Mt Edgcumbe plant was hard pruned in 2019 and is making particularly strong regrowth, plus the fact that it is, in Cornwall, growing in a much higher rainfall area than Wisley, I am fairly sure that the two are the same. Neither is flowering at present, but photographs show the flowers to be a good match. Even if there is doubt about it being the same as the Mt Edgcumbe 5A plant, there is no room for doubt that it is every bit as distinct from the Mt Edgcumbe 3C plant which I believe is ‘Masayoshi’.
My question is, what is it?
This first set of pictures is of the Mt Edgcumbe plant that I’m trying to identify.
The second set of images is of the Mt Edgcumbe plant of ‘Masayoshi’ which I believe is correctly identified.
The third set of images is of the Wisley plant labelled ‘Masayoshi’, which I believe to be the same as the unidentified Mt Edgcumbe plant.