A Camellia, by any other name….

I finally managed to devote one of my volunteer days to engraving labels and last week I had the pleasure of attaching some of them to the plants. Some were to replace lost or broken labels, many were replacements for existing labels that over the last few years I had concluded were wrong. It isn’t something I did lightly; you don’t just march in to a national collection and start renaming things willy-nilly.

On the other hand, it probably isn’t possible to be absolutely certain of anything unless it’s the original specimen of a variety you raised yourself. I like to think I set the bar high when it comes to making these decisions. It will mean I need to to a lot of updating on this website too.

I started by replacing the ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ label on 1G-079 with ‘Tomorrow Park Hill’. ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ is white, this has a pale pink flower. It is the same as two other plants of ‘Tomorrow Park Hill’ in the collection so at least they are all now labelled the same; I still have a sliver of doubt whether it’s the right name.

‘Pink Icicle’ is now labelled ‘Polar Ice’, it being identical with another plant of that name in the collection. In this case it was pure white rather than the pink it needed to be for ‘Pink Icicle’.

A ‘Masayoshi’ label replaced “unknown” on another plant. I think it may have been labelled ‘Ville de Nantes’ in the past and it may have been acquired and planted as that and have subsequently reverted to ‘Masayoshi’, of which ‘Ville de Nantes’ is a fimbriated sport.

In similar vein, ‘Lady Vansittart Pink’ is now labelled ‘Yours Truly’. Both are sports of ‘Lady Vansittart’ but 90% or more of the flowers on this bush were ‘Yours Truly’, so irrespective of what it was planted as, it made sense to relabel it.

A plant of ‘Twiss Cornwall’ is now labelled ‘Saturnia’. There were two existing plants of ‘Saturnia’ and at some point I realised that ‘Twiss Cornwall’ was similar. Closer comparison showed them to be identical. The Camellia Register knows only of the Mt Edgcumbe plant, but there is, or was, a plant so labelled at Wisley. I’m not even sure that the collection plant didn’t originate from Wisley. I have a vision of someone called Twiss, living in Cornwall, sending a plant of this fine red camellia to Wisley for them to identify, and them eventually planting it out with the name ‘Twiss Cornwall’ on it for want of being successful at identifying it.

Another with a Wisley connection is a plant that was marked as Masayoshi/Donckelarri on old plans. No source is given in the collection records but some material was supplied by Wisley in the early days and Wisley have a large plant of what I am 99% certain is the same plant also labelled ‘Masayoshi’ when I last saw it. It is not ‘Masayoshi’ but ‘Mercury Variegated’ and now sports a label to that effect. It was a classic example of working out that it was not what the label/map said it was but then having to go through years worth of hoops to correctly identify it. It’s a very striking variety and has similarities with ‘Masayoshi’ but is really quite distinct. The first hurdle is to realise that the name is wrong, which is often a lot harder than it sounds.

  • Camellia japonica 'Donckelaeri Improved'

Near to it is a plant now labelled ‘Firebird’, instead of ‘Duchesse Decazes’, another is now ‘Adolphe Audusson’ instead of ‘Augusto Leal de Gouveia Pinto’. Plants labelled ‘Tricolor Siebold’ and ‘Bonomiana’ are now labelled ‘Morning Glow’ and will be joined by a third of their kind currently labelled ‘Alba Plena’. Some are errors of a different kind. I always smiled wryly when I read the label saying ‘Souvenier Dublitoo’; it won’t be the same now it says ‘Souvenir de Bahoud Litou’.

Camellia japonica ‘Perfecta’, in the European section with France as its origin is now Camellia x williamsii ‘Perfecta’ (Jury), righting a different sort of wrong by giving credit where it’s due.

I have a lot more labels in my bag ready to be attached to plants and a few still on my list that haven’t been engraved yet. But it feels like progress. It then means I have to change the galleries and associated notes on here, which is another time consuming but mostly pleasurable task.

2 thoughts on “A Camellia, by any other name….

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