Notes from the park

It’s a few weeks since I was last up at Mt Edgcumbe. Camellia season is over, but there are always a few stragglers, some that always manage a few late blooms and a few random things. I set about putting numbers onto the plants in section 5D, European varieties that are part of the Betteley collection. C. japonica ‘Maculata Superba’ had a single almost perfect bloom, that would fall under the random late flowerer category.
Maculata-Superba

When I came to re-attach the label on another plant in the section I spotted a birds nest right in front of me at eye level. It looked like an old one so I felt into it and pulled my hand out pretty quickly as there was something wriggling. I used the camera as a periscope and took this picture of three very young chicks before moving away to allow the parents back. It wasn’t long before a blackbird hen was back on the nest. They wouldn’t have stood a chance in most gardens as it was easily accessible for cats, but I’ve not seen a cat in the park and presumably other predators are relatively few in number.

There are a great many nests in the camellia bushes, especially where they’ve been pruned and clusters of branches have grown back from the same point.

C. japonica ‘Forest Green’ is a regular late flowerer; so much so that in some years a lot of its buds never open at all. This year it seems to have behaved fairly normally but still has a few late blooms dotted about it. Formal double reds account for most of the regular late flowerers in the collection, I have a hunch that in sunnier locations they might behave a bit more normally. I had a plant of ‘Forest Green’ in full sun on my allotment and it flowered profusely in normal camellia season and I have a plant of ‘Eximea’ in my garden which gets much more sun than its parent in the collection, it also blooms normal season. ‘Forest Green’ is noteworthy for its glossy foliage; it is as good as any plant in the collection in this regard.

A short way down from ‘Forest Green’ is a group of large bushes that have been pruned back this year. They have been done before and in most cases the pruning cuts this year were made 6 inches to a foot above where they were made on the last occasion, which I would estimate to have been 8-10 years ago. As you can see in theses pictures, the regrowth last time was not thinned, so many shoots grew back from each cut stem. The crowded growth quickly put on height and the bushes were soon back to the size they had been before pruning, only much denser.

Already new shoots are pushing out from the cut stems and it is my intention to only allow a proportion of them to grow. My preference would have been to cut below where they were cut last time, removing the whole cluster of shoots to leave a single big branch, then to thin the shoots that arose from that. Cutting lower constitutes more severe pruning, with attendant risks, and anything below 4-5 feet is liable to be browsed by deer.

In July 2017 a tree came down onto section 1L, completely destroying a couple of the plants there. In Setember 2018, 14 months later, I spotted shoots just starting to grow on a bush of ‘Little Man’. Those shoots, tiny as they were, survived the winter and are now a few inches tall.

The greatest threat now is someone with a strimmer who doesn’t know the plants are there. I don’t want to flag them conspicuously for fear of someone stepping on the shoots while trying to work out what the marker is for. With no marker there is no reason for anyone to go near them. So far the deer have left them alone.

 

Change of plan

Not that I had much of a plan when I went up to Mount Edgcumbe this morning. I was going to number the plants in section 5B, see what was flowering and take some photos and get pictures of the labels I’d attached last week.

That’s not what happened. They have a group of young German landscape students over for a couple of weeks and today was given over to introducing some of them to the Camellia collection and getting their help to carry out some fairly drastic pruning.

Section 5A contains European varieties, mostly quite old. It is one of the oldest sections of the collection, probably planted in the 1980’s, and it is on a very steep bank along one side of the Earl’s Drive. The steep slope emphasises the height of the bushes, which were mostly 10-12 feet tall, and because you are looking up at them with a background of sky through the still bare branches of the trees, the flowers are not shown off at all well. Nor is it possible to see anything but the path facing side of the first row of plants.

The majority of the plants in this section were cut to 5-6 feet about ten years ago and I should think are now back to about the same height as when they were cut. No thinning or shortening of the regrowth was carried out so they are much denser than they would have been before cutting. Indeed the contrast between the bushes that had been pruned and the ones that hadn’t was quite stark, the latter having grown rather lanky with sparse foliage.

Most have been cut back to just above where they were cut a decade ago, which usually involved cutting around six strongly vertical shoots that had grown up from just below the earlier pruning cut. The plan now is to thin and shorten the regrowth in the hope that the bushes can be brought back into flowering without getting either as big or as dense again.

The challenge with that is that most of today’s pruning was done standing on the very steep ground and using loppers to make cuts almost at full stretch. In some cases I climbed into the bush to reach. Thus pruning the regrowth is going to need tools to reach a metre or more above my head.

The effect is brutal and several park visitors voiced their concerns. Hopefully by the end of the summer it will look very different. It already looks much lighter and far less overbearing and the glimpses of background between the bushes is a big improvement.
The unpruned bush in the picture has still not flowered since it was last pruned; it was one of the smaller bushes in the section but shows how dense the growth had been.


At the end of a full on day I made my way back to the carpark and was moved to stop and take pictures a few times on the way.

Camellia japonica ‘Fred Sander’ is a fimbriated sport of ‘Lady de Saumerez’, which is to say it has raggedy edges to very twisted petals. ‘Lady de Saumerez’ is a solid pink sport of ‘Tricolor’. ‘Fred Sander’ doesn’t seem to produce buds that are big enough to contain the petals and they are showing the coloured tips of the petals by the turn of the year or earlier, long before ‘Lady de Saumerez’. However, the buds are very slow to open and ‘Lady de Saumerez’ has all but finished flowering before ‘Fred Sander’ gets going. Sadly, because Fred has had the edges of his petals exposed for so long, they are very likely to have been frosted, as in this picture.
Fred-Sander

Further on I dug my camera out again for Camellia japonica ‘William Honey’. This will have been one of the earliest varieties in the collection but the original plant has gone and this is now the only one. At 8-10cm across the blooms are bigger than quite a few of the pink striped varieties and the mix of petaloids and stamens in the middle adds interest.
William-Honey

I bagged one more before I headed home for a cup of tea. Camellia x williamsii ‘Olga Carlyon’ is not in the Camellia Register so was presumably never registered. It was labelled ‘Rosemary Sawle’ and has only recently been re-labelled correctly. It has a loose, informal feel about it, combined with a delicate pink colour; I like it very much.
Olga-Carlyon

On labelling and re-labelling.

labels

I spent most of my volunteer day this week putting on labels. I have for some months been working my way systematically through the Mount Edgcumbe collection putting numbers onto the reverse of the labels to identify individual plants. I have been noting broken and missing labels as I’ve progressed and have attached temporary labels where appropriate.

I went out with 34 labels to attach, most of them for plants which had no label or had broken labels. In addition to these were seven where I removed and replaced the existing label because it was showing the wrong name. I have created a new page below the Mt Edgcumbe tab called labelling notes and will note all labelling alterations from now on.

I am now at the point where I am sufficiently certain that the existing labels on some plants are incorrect, AND am certain to a high level of confidence what the variety correctly is, to be replacing them. The first part of that requirement is much easier than the second and there are many plants in the collection where it is only the first part that has been satisfied. Most of those plants still have the incorrect label on them but where labels have been lost on varieties that seem to be incorrectly identified in the records, I have not replaced them. Here are the changes I made.
1) 1G-054 Replaced label showing Camellia japonica ‘Katie’ with one showing Camellia japonica ‘White Nun’. Two plants had been purchased from Coghurst Nursery and planted in 2003. The one at 1L-015 fits the description for the variety, ie large and pink; this one is white and seems identical to ‘White Nun’ at 1H-029 & 1H-030.

Katie

1G-054 and 1L-015, were both labelled ‘Katie’. 1G-054 has been relabelled ‘White Nun’

2) 1G-070 Replaced label showing Camellia japonica ‘Mathotiana Alba’ with one showing ‘Camellia japonica ‘Mathotiana Rosea’. The plant flowers uniformly pink and is a good match with ‘Mathotiana Rosea’ at 2C-036.

3) 2C-008 Replaced label showing Camellia williamsii ‘Candy Stripe’ with one showing Camellia x williamsii ‘Marjorie Waldegrave’. Plant is an exact match for the three plants of this variety in sections 2D and 9.

Candy-Stripe

2C-008 was labelled ‘Candy Stripe’, which should look like 8-004 ‘Candy Stripe’ (Waterhouse) on the right. It’s been relabelled ‘Marjorie Waldegrave’. It’s not obvious why anyone would think the plain pink one would be called ‘Candy Stripe’.

4) 1P-026 Replaced label showing Camellia japonica ‘Mathotiana’ with one showing Camellia japonica ‘Grand Sultan’. ‘Grand Sultan’ was widely grown under the name ‘Mathotiana’ but is quite different. This plant is a good match for ‘Grand Sultan’ 5D-008 and except for the flower colour, with its sport ‘Augusto Pinto’ 5D-002.

5) 2A-041 Replaced label showing Camellia japonica ‘Migali’ with one showing ‘Camellia japonica ‘Lady Vansittart’. Both this plant and the one at 5A-047 are clearly ‘Lady Vansittart’. ‘Migali’ is described in the Register as a small, shell pink single which these are not.

6) 1A-036 Replaced label showing Camellia japonica ‘Nuccio’s Pearl’ with one showing Camellia japonica ‘Nuccio’s Jewel’.

7) 1E-026 Replaced label showing Camellia japonica ‘Martha Brice’ with one showing Camellia japonica ‘Marie Bracey’. There is another plant labelled ‘Martha Bryce’ at 4C-003 which is different from this one and appears correct. There was also a reference to the variety ‘Marie Bracey’ being in this section on an old plan and it does match descriptions of that variety.

Martha-Brice

1E-026 & 4C-003 have been labelled Martha Brice and Martha Bryce respectively. 1E-026 has now been relabelled ‘Marie Bracey’. 4C-003 should be relabelled ‘Martha Brice’, which is the correct spelling, but for now there are bigger problems to deal with.

Little things

As a blogger I feel I should be producing output on a fairly regular basis, but also that I should keep quiet until I have something to say. Real life doesn’t always work like that and my dealings with camellias consist of a constant trickle of trivia around which I would struggle to construct any sort of coherent narrative.

Take last Tuesday for example. I headed up to Mt Edgcumbe as usual and spent a good deal of the day going around taking photos. I do this even though I have many pictures of most of the plants in the collection because I want to build up a picture of how the flowers vary from one season to another. I also have a better camera than I had when I started, so I hope to get better pictures than I already have.

There are also still quite a number of plants in the collection that I have yet to see flower. Some were pruned hard just before I turned up to photograph them. The time it takes for a plant to get back to flowering varies from no time at all to five years or more. It depends on the variety, the severity of pruning, the location of the plant, follow up thinning of regrowth, the weather and probably several other things as well.

On Tuesday I took photos of two plants I had not seen flower before. In Section 4D is a plant labelled ‘Barbara Mary’, pruned some years ago and with a few buds this season. I took a picture of a small and squiffy flower then noticed a much better one at the top of the bush. Sometimes the only way to get a picture is to cut the shoot off, in this case I was able to pull it down and hold it in a reasonably natural position to take the picture.

Camellia japonica 'Barbara Mary'

Camellia japonica ‘Barbara Mary’ (4E-024)

When I got home I looked up the Register entry for this variety which describes it as “Colour blush pink. A large, peony form flower with a delicate scent. Early to mid-season blooming.” The blush pink bit seems correct and perhaps it will develop into a peony form as it opens more. I seldom think to check for scent, so few have any.

In Macaboy’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Camellias he echoes the blush-pink peony form description but has a picture of a semi-double, almost anemone-form flower that I would describe as light red.

There are pictures on Camellias.pics and the colour is a good match but not the form, at least so far. Camellias Australia have a picture on Flikr which is similar; right colour, wrong form.

It is common, the norm even, for camellia blooms in the relatively cool climate of the UK to differ from blooms of the same variety in a hotter climate. In general there is a greater tendency for stamens to develop into petaloids or petals in a cool climate. Blooms become more double, with less stamens at the centre; they may take several days to open fully to the point where stamens are visible, fooling you into thinking they are not going to have any.

So I will revisit the same bloom next Tuesday and see whether it has become peony form. If it has I will be reasonably satisfied that it is what the label says it is.

The other “new” flowerer was in European Section 5A. This is one of the oldest sections and a lot of the plants were pruned several years ago. Most have now flowered again but they are back to the size they were before and are denser than ever. They will need to be pruned again soon. There is a plant with no label that on the plan is marked as ‘Tricolor’. It is now in flower and appears to be the same as ‘Tricolor Siebold’ at 5B-026. It has a small to medium, white formal double bloom on a very upright bush.

‘Tricolor Siebold’ is a synonym for ‘Tricolor’ so I know this is wrong, even allowing for the variability of the flowers of ‘Tricolor’, several forms of which have been named. The foliage is quite different and that clinches it for me. What I now have to attempt is to put the right name to it. It is similar in flower and growth habit to a plant in Section 2A labelled ‘Alba Plena’ so I shall start by comparing it very closely with that.

There are very many formal double white camellias. I can go through my books but there is no way I can identify my unknown variety from a single picture with no foliage, little indication of size, nothing about growth habit, nothing about whether it was ever grown in this country.Camellia japonica 'Tricolor'

Of course the reverse is also true. You may be looking at my picture, thinking it looks very like an unidentified plant that you have and wishing that I’d put up 10 pictures of blooms, their size, some foliage, its size, and so on. To which I would say that the only way you could be sure enough that yours was the same as mine would be to cut a piece of yours and take it to the plant that I had illustrated and compare every possible detail.

It’s the only way I know to get from “I think it might be” to “I’m very nearly certain it is”. I’m not sure it is possible to get to “I’m absolutely certain it is” unless you can prove that it was propagated from the original plant of a variety.

ID time

campsii-alba-2
I grow a camellia under the name Camellia japonica ‘Campsii Alba’. It is the same as one in Moyclare Garden in Liskeard that is known by the same name. It also matches two of the three plants under that name in the Mount Edgcumbe collection. (5B-004 & 5C-003)

The third plant in the collection (5D-004) is different but I think it is more likely to be the correctly named one, in spite of the weight of numbers. I am fairly certain that my plant and the two similar Mt Edgcumbe plants were propagated from the Moyclare plant.

The Camellia Register describes it thus:

“The flower is full, spherical, regular and formed like a perfect rosette. The colour is pure, milk white. The petals, disposed in 7-8 rows, are of average size, rounded, close set, regularly imbricated from the circumference to the centre. Very early flowering.”

It would be helpful if a size for the flower was given. My plant and its kin have been flowering since well before Christmas. The other plant does not flower so early, my pictures of it have been taken in April. Both forms have small, pure white flowers about 5-7cm across. The 5D-004 form is almost always a formal double showing no stamens in its centre but I have on just one occasion seen a fully open flower with some stamens at the centre. The Moyclare plant always has anemone form flowers.

 

The Moyclare plant is probably at least 50 years old and will have been planted by Moira Reid. It is about 4m tall and flowers freely every year over a period of up to three months. The leaves are quite small for a japonica, glossy and robust. It’s a very fine variety and I would love to identify it correctly.

campsii-alba-4

Camellia japonica ‘Campsii Alba’ (5D-004)

Sasanqua season 2018 – 4

I made it back to Mt Edgcumbe on Tuesday after a three week absence to find that the sasanqua season there is all but over. On the other hand, there was a fair smattering of other things flowering and I ended up taking quite a lot of photos.

The sasanqua x reticulata hybrids are moving toward peak flowering. Usually ‘Show Girl’, especially the specimen in the species section, steals the show both on display and flower size. This year it is as good as ever but ‘Flower Girl’ is the best I’ve seen it and almost the equal of ‘Show Girl’.

‘Show Girl’ should be much more widely grown, it produces an astonishing display at a time of year when little else is around and seems able to withstand most of what the weather throws at it.

The Ackerman hybrids have done relatively well this year and have also stood out for the length of their flowering season. ‘Winter’s Toughie’ is good every year but makes a rather large and untidy bush. Light regular pruning would probably help. ‘Winter’s Rose’ and ‘Snow Flurry’ have both been excellent this year, helped by more light from the loss of tree cover. ‘Winter’s Rose’ is semi-weeping, wider than high, ‘Snow Flurry’ vigorous and upright. Both have given about six weeks of display. ‘Winter’s Charm’, growing nearby, has produced a few blooms, similar to ‘Winter’s Rose’ but on a more vigorous, upright bush, but is more shaded than the other two.

Another Ackerman hybrid, ‘Winter’s Joy’, seems reluctant to open out fully, which is unfortunate as it could be most attractive. I’ve not seen it behave like this in previous years.

C. hiemalis ‘Showa Supreme’ is represented by two plants in the collection in Section 1N, one of the shadiest areas. I don’t think this suits them and they never flower freely though this year is the best I’ve seen. This was a Nuccio raised seedling of ‘Showa-no-sakae’ with larger blooms. It’s wide spreading and dense, a good plant would be a fine thing; I must try to propagate it so it can be planted in a better location.

C. x williamsii ‘November Pink’ is usually true to its name, sometimes starting as early as late October. Not this year, just two or three blooms so far. Equally predictable are C. japonica ‘Gloire de Nantes’, C. japonica ‘Nobilissima’ and C. japonica ‘Daikagura’; all of them are flowering freely.

I was a bit more surprised to see C. japonica ‘Momijigari’, C. japonica ‘Bokuhan’ and C. japonica ‘Spring Promise’ with lots of blooms open. I don’t recall more than the occasional early bloom from previous years.

C. ‘Bokuhan’ is clearly one parent of both the plants labelled ‘Peter Betteley’. In an earlier blog I explained why I had concluded that, as similar as they undoubtedly are, they are not the same and seem to be sister seedlings. This year the flowers are as distinct from each other as I’ve ever seen them, though you still need to look carefully.

And then there were the rest. Mostly just one or two early blooms on varieties not especially noted for flowering early; unsurprising, given the summer we had.

Not a bad haul for 11th December. I think it’s going to be a good spring season but if the weather stays mild it may be an early one. Most plants seem to have set a heavy crop of buds and I’ve seen very little sign of them dropping. I have my fingers crossed.

 

Sasanqua season 2018 – 3

In my last post I waxed lyrical about how well two of the five bushes of Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’ had performed this year, with larger and fuller blooms than usual. What I failed to mention was that the other three had produced entirely average displays, with normal numbers of normal sized blooms.

Some plants had benefitted from the unusually hot summer but others hadn’t. Looking at the plants I would say that the two that had done unusually well were in more open locations, meaning that they received more light, including direct sunlight and were probably less in competition with nearby trees for water.

I have seen unusually big flowers on C. sasanqua ‘Narumigata’ at Moyclare in Liskeard but the Mount Edgcumbe plants have normal sized blooms. In general I would say that there have been more flowers than normal and in a minority of cases the blooms are bigger than usual. Some plants have fewer buds than normal.

Tentative conclusion: Higher temperatures meant lots of buds produced but also increased risk of drought. Where moisture was available plants produced larger than normal blooms but in most cases dryness offset the beneficial effect of temperature as far as bloom size was concerned. Where dryness became an issue early there was a negative impact on bud production, or perhaps some varieties are more sensitive than others.

I have often taken photos of flowers with a tape measure in front but you would need to do this over a period of years as well as keeping accurate weather records to reach solid conclusions. I don’t trust my recollections from a year ago and with good reason. I was convinced that the blooms on ‘Show Girl’ this year were comfortably the biggest ever but in fact they are the same as last year. About 14cm diameter. I have pictures.


Which makes me uncertain about the comments on ‘Hugh Evans’. Perhaps the two good plants have always been significantly better and I’ve just not noticed. If that were the case then some factor(s) other than weather would be indicated, perhaps some have a virus, or are in poorer soil. With plants, there are always so many factors in play that firm conclusions are almost impossible to make and the people who pretend otherwise may not be the experts they would have you believe they are.

Winters-Rose-3

Camellia ‘Winter’s Rose’

A couple of plants in Section 1L have been outstanding this year too, ‘Snow Flurry’ and ‘Winter’s Rose’. Both are from Dr William Ackerman’s program of breeding cold hardy varieties aimed at extending the area where Camellias could be successfully grown in the USA. Both were planted in 2000 and this is the first year they have performed at all well. By far the biggest change in their fortunes was the loss of the mature beech tree under whose dense shade they were languishing. Add one hot summer and a level of maturity and you have two plants you’d recommend to anyone.

It goes to show how easy it can be to write something off as poor when all it needs is the right combination of location and time to prove itself very good indeed.

Snow-Flurry-7

Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’

Lastly, I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago of a sport on Camellia ‘Hugh Evans’ at Mount Edgcumbe. Sports on Camellia sasanqua are comparatively rare and I took a couple of cuttings from this shoot earlier in the summer but left a section of the mutated bit on the bush in case they failed. I was pleased to see the flower as it confirms there is still some on the parent bush. It’s most likely chimaeral so I’d like to grow it for a few years to be sure it’s stable before I launch it onto the world and make my fortune.