On the home front.

Mostly I blog about the Camellia collection at Mount Edgcumbe, but I do actually have a few Camellias of my own. 25 miles further into Cornwall, in a garden of around 500m2, as compared to Mt Edgcumbe’s 3.5 million m2.

I have managed to squeeze in a couple of dozen, which still leaves me room to grow a range of other things as well; my Camellia obsession has to share space with a number of other obsessions, so most of the Camellias are around the perimeter and they are not allowed free reign when it comes to getting ever larger.

There is very definitely a pink theme at this point in March, but let me first mention Camellia japonica ‘Bob Hope’. Like many a top variety this was a product of Nuccio’s Nursery in California. As a nursery plant I found it quite slow to get going but my plant is now around twenty years old and the bigger it becomes, the more of an advantage a naturally slow rate of growth becomes. It is currently around 2.4m tall and is due to get pruned in a few weeks time, when it has largely finished flowering. Every two or three years I reduce its height by around 45cm. This is enough to keep it between 2 and 2.4m tall while retaining a natural shape and enough young growth to ensure a flower display the following season, even it is somewhat reduced.

The description of the flowers is “irregular semi-double” and I was able today to find flowers with a fully formed boss of stamens in the centre of the flower and others where almost all the stamens had become petaloid, as well as intermediaries. The colour is a deep red and the blooms are around 10cm wide.

You can just see Camellia x williamsii ‘Charles Colbert’ to the right of ‘Bob Hope’. This is my biggest Camellia bush, around 3.5m tall, but with the lower branches removed to make a short trunked tree. This allows me to grow shade loving perennials beneath it while not changing its effectiveness at screening my neighbours. I keep it around this height and thin it out so that it doesn’t make too solid a block against the sky.

Camellia ‘Adorable’ is unmissable just to the side of ‘Charles Colbert’. This is a pitardii hybrid, raised by E.R. Sebire in Australia. It has small formal double flowers in great profusion and has been a compact, slow growing plant for me, though the Mt Edgcumbe plant seems a little more vigorous.

I have another of Sebire’s pitardii hybrids in the shape of Camellia ‘Annette Carol’. This gets covered with medium sized, pink frilly flowers every year and produces so many buds that even if it gets frosted, it will often produce another full display a week or two later. It is my intention to shape this bush to a tree-like habit, providing shade for ferns beneath and screening from neighbours higher up. The smaller bush to the left of it is Camellia ‘Koto-no-kaori’, a hybrid between C. japonica and C. lutchuensis, which produces small single pink flowers having a lovely perfume over at least two months early in the year.

Camellia reticulata ‘Mystique’ was a plant I originally ordered in from New Zealand as rooted cuttings, during my nursery days. That was in 2007, 16 years later it is 2.5m tall and flowering prodigiously every year. It is not available to buy anywhere, so far as I know, unsurprising for a reticulata variety that is all but impossible to root from cuttings. The best view I have of it is from my bedroom window, it’s somewhat hemmed in down at ground level.

In a smallish garden, not wanting the Camellias to dominate, I have mainly kept them to the margins. They are multi-purpose plants, providing shelter from wind, screening from neighbours, a spectacular flower display in spring with a little in autumn and winter too; then in summer and autumn they form the backdrop to displays of other plants. I have 24 in the garden, covering most of what Camellias have to offer. Of course I’d like more but I resist the temptation. If I want a heavier fix I can go to Mount Edgcumbe.

9 thoughts on “On the home front.

  1. Hi Jim, Great article! We live near where Edgar Sebire had his nursery. It is very interesting seeing two of his cultivars so far away. I have never come across ‘Annette Carol’, but it looks lovely!


    • ‘Annette Carol’ has long been a favourite of mine, as far as I know it is not available in the UK, which is crazy. I did a text search on Sebire’s name in the ICS register and was surprised by how many varieties he’d raised.


    • I never heard of C F Coates but I live in Oregon and have two fishtails. One is a white single with very extravagant foliage which I purchased years ago as “White Mermaid” The other is a rose pink semidouble planted 50 (?) years ago by the Oregon Camellia Society. I’ve never known the proper “Official” name- pink fishtail? I could supply cuttings in the U.S.


      • They’re an interesting little group, the fishtails. The Mount Edgcumbe collection has four, ‘C. F. Coates’, which is a williamsii cross raised at Kew in 1935 from C. saluenensis x C. japonica ‘Kingyo-tsubaki’; C.japonica ‘Kingyo-tsubaki’ itself, with single pink blooms; C. japonica ‘Kingyoba-shiro-wabisuke’, with single white blooms and C. japonica ‘Mermaid’ which is a semi-double pink raised in America from seed of unknown parentage and registered in 1947. It sounds like it may be the variety you have. The American Camellia Society Camellia Library appears to equate ‘Pink Mermaid’ with ‘Kingyo-tsubaki’ which is wrong as the latter is an old Japanese variety. It also gives its registration date as 1994 so it is seemingly different from ‘Mermaid’.


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