Of Clouds and Silver Linings

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I headed up to Mount Edgcumbe this morning, it being Tuesday. It was cloudy but dry when I set out. The Rame Peninsular, occupied at its eastern end by the Edgcumbe Estate, has its own climate. This morning it was 50m visibility fog, with a drizzle that was getting steadily heavier. I stayed an hour, then came home. I was getting wet and so was my camera.

The silver lining, and I’m clutching at straws here, is that cloudy is easier to deal with than bright sunshine when taking pictures of flowers. Bright sunshine creates harsh contrasts and the softer sunlight at either end of the day often impacts badly on accurate colour rendition.

Heavy cloud reduces light levels, meaning a wider aperture or slower speed or higher ISO is often needed. Flowers are very often moving, even in very light wind, so a sufficient shutter speed is needed to freeze the movement. A wider aperture means less depth of field, which means much of the picture will be out of focus. Blooms with well defined centres which draw the eye can work if the focus is sharp at that point, but less well defined flowers need a greater depth of field. Fortunately I can push the ISO on my camera to 800 or even 1600 without too much loss of picture quality.

Here then are some of the photos I took.

 

It’s an odd year, as usual

Every year is an odd year. When you revisit the same place year after year you really notice the differences.

This year at Mount Edgcumbe there seem to be a lot of exceptionally large blooms and a lot of exceptionally small blooms. That is, some varieties are flowering bigger than usual, some smaller.

Another oddity is that Lady St Clair has opened properly. Most years it only half opens, remaining cup shaped. This year, masses of blooms and every one fully open. It could almost fool you into thinking it is worth growing. I doubt it has done this more than one year in ten, in my experience.

Lady-St-Clair

Camellia japonica ‘Lady St Clair’

There are other, very similar varieties that open properly every year. ‘Ave Maria’ is one, and deservedly popular. One in the collection that is rather buried in the middle of the formal double section, so seen by almost no-one, is ‘Eleanor Hagood’. Its location makes it difficult to photograph as its very shady.

Eleanor-Hagood

Camellia japonica ‘Eleanor Hagood’

 

 

Camellia japonica ‘Augusto Leal de Gouveia Pinto’ is usually shortened to ‘Augusto Pinto’. It is a mainstay of the showbench and is a white margined sport of the red variety ‘Grand Sultan’. I have occasionally seen red blooms on bushes of ‘Augusto Pinto’. This bloom is a reminder that there is white in there too, though I am not aware of a pure white sport.

Augusto-Pinto

Camellia japonica ‘Augusto Leal de Gouveia Pinto’

And then there is this little lot.

I find it very hard to render colours consistently, taking photographs as I do in full, bright sun, in shade, in deeply overcast conditions and so on. It seems to me that these five plants are almost certainly the same variety. The flowers are the same size, shape and colour and are produced at the same time. They are all in the Mt Edgcumbe collection and they are all labelled something different. I lean towards ‘Comte de Gomer’ but haven’t altogether ruled out ‘Vittorio Emmanuel II’.
All inputs to the debate are welcome.

Joviality, sort of.

Perhaps NASA could just do a quick whizz by Mt Edgcumbe with their Jupiter probe and see if they can make sense of Jupiter, the camellia variety. They might make more sense than I can.

Oddly enough their probe is called Juno, which is a synonym for Jupiter in the camellia world. Not so very oddly, as Juno was Jupiter’s wife, able to see through the veil of clouds that Jupiter drew around himself to hide his mischief. What a scallywag! Jovian is the adjective that describes things pertaining to Jupiter and from jovian comes jovial.

The camellia now known correctly as ‘Jupiter (Paul)’ was renamed ‘Juno’ as the name Jupiter had already been applied to an earlier variety. In the Mt Edgcumbe collection are three plants labelled ‘Jupiter’ (1G-051, 1G-052 and 4A-026) and two labelled ‘Juno’ (2A-033 & 2A-034). The IG-051 plant is semi-double and easily dismissed as wrongly labelled. I’m still working on what it really is.

I have examined the foliage on the remaining four and have reached the conclusion that 4A-026, 2A-033 & 2A-034 are almost certainly the same but that 1G-052 is different. There are clear differences in both the shape and the glossiness of the leaves. All four plants have typical ‘Jupiter’ flowers. The likelihood is that 1G-052 is incorrect, but it is by no means certain.


It makes you wonder whether someone sowed seed of ‘Jupiter’ and when the seedlings turned out very similar to the parent, passed them on under the same name.

The Nothofagus that came down on Japanese section 3C has been partly cleared now and the news is not good. (Aftermath of the Beast) Six plants have been badly damaged, including the only ‘Takayama’ in the collection. Four more are quite bad and a further seven suffered some damage.  The second of the pair of Nothofagus looms threateningly overhead and is likely to be felled before it falls. I certainly wouldn’t go near it in anything above a light breeze.

3C-Japan

Area 3C has taken a battering.

Takayama

Camellia ‘Takayama’, sadly 75% of the bush is gone, including this bit.

The importance of having two plants of each variety becomes clear when something like this happens but the reality is that there are thousands of varieties not represented at all.

‘Ginryû’ & pitardii.

 

There is not the remotest reason for these two taxa to become confused. I should probably put my hand up and admit my culpability inasmuch as when I was working on a nursery and selling camellias, we had a variety labelled Camellia pitardii which I knew even then to be wrong.

We were buying in young plants from a wholesale grower who specialised in Camellias. We considered her to be highly reliable in respect of quality and accuracy of naming. We bought from her young plants under the name C. pitardii, potted them up, grew them on for a season or two and put them out for sale. In all likelihood plants were sold before any had flowered on the nursery, so we would not have had an opportunity to check. Nor, at the time, was I familiar with Camellia pitardii, so I probably would not have immediately realised it was wrong.

There will have been other Camellia growers who also obtained young plants from the same source and the plant at Mt Edgcumbe is recorded as having come from one of them.

At some point I did realise that it was not C. pitardii but had absolutely no idea what it actually was. When I came across a plant in a private garden with similar flowers I renewed my efforts to identify it. At Mt Edgcumbe there is a plant labelled Camellia x vernalis ‘Dawn’. That name is a synonym for Camellia x vernalis ‘Ginryû’. It looks very similar. I have been comparing the two over the last year and have concluded that they are the same variety, though the plant of ‘Ginryu’ at Mt Edgcumbe and the private garden specimen are virus infected whereas the plant labelled pitardii appears healthy.

Flower size, shape, number of petals are variable on both plants but very similar. Flowering time is the same. Flower buds are the same size and shape with the same light pink flush on the petal reverse.

Leaves are the same shape but about 5mm longer on pitardii which is enjoying better growing conditions. The degree of glossiness on both surfaces, petiole length, serrations, angle to stem are indistinguishable. Growth buds are the same shape, at the same degree of development and have the same silkiness on the scales.

I would love to have my thoughts on this confirmed by others. I would also love to know where the “C. pitardii” form originates from and how it came to be misnamed.

New season, new puzzles.

There is at Mount Edgcumbe a plant labelled Camellia pitardii, a name which I am as certain as I can be is wrong. That’s the easy bit; the challenge now is to identify it correctly.

It seems to me to bear a very close resemblance to another plant in the collection that is labelled Camellia x vernalis ‘Dawn’. According to the register, ‘Dawn’ is a synonym for ‘Ginryû’, a variety dating from 1789. As far as I can ascertain, from a limited number of pictures and descriptions, this is correctly named. The most obvious differences between the two plants are that “pitardii” is much freer flowering, with slightly larger and fuller flowers and that ‘Dawn’/’Ginryû’ is infected with virus, showing up as yellow mottling on its leaves.

‘Dawn’/’Ginryu’ is in a poor location, deeply shaded and dry, “pitardii” is in an open area with plenty of moisture.

The question in my mind is whether they are the same variety, with and without virus infection.

Puzzle number two is not one to which I expect or require an answer. Camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’ has to reckoned one of the world’s most successful Camellias. Camellia x williamsii ‘Fiona Colville’ is virtually unknown. It arose as a mutation on ‘Donation’ at Penheale Manor in Cornwall around 1960 and seems completely stable. Except for the deeper colour of its flowers it appears identical to ‘Donation’.

I would have thought that if the two plants were offered side by side the take up of each would be roughly equal. Of course, as soon as people know that one is ‘Donation’, they’ll go for it because of it’s reputation, except for the handful of people who want something that everyone else doesn’t have.

Puzzle number three concerns another pair of plants. The first is labelled Camellia japonica ‘California’, the second Camellia japonica ‘Firefalls’. Neither name is correct and the two plants appear to be the same variety. The collection records give no source for ‘California’ and for ‘Firefalls’ record it as having been a cutting from a plant in another section that is no longer there.

There is a marked similarity too with another pair in the collection, ‘Mrs Bertha Harms’ and ‘Spring Sonnet’, both wrongly identified and beside each other in the Betteley Collection at Area 1P. My first task is to decide whether they are all the same. That would be very puzzling. The next is to try and match them with something known.

A walk in the park

It being Tuesday, my day was spent at Mount Edgcumbe. There are still a few sections of Camellia plantings that I have not properly documented. One such is the first group of Camellias that was planted to get the collection off the ground. This was back in 1976, when 50 plants, donated by the International Camellia Society, were planted in the Formal Garden.

Well away from the rest of the collection as they are, it is an area I haven’t looked at in a while. Four were flowering.

Clockwise, according to their labels, they are ‘Winton’, ‘J C Williams’, ‘Beatrice Michael’ and ‘Cornish Snow’. Except that ‘J C Williams’ is wrong and ‘Cornish Snow’ didn’t have a label. There is work to do here.

I moved on to an area nearby called Gordon’s Glen. This is a steeply sloping and rocky area which was planted with camellias two years ago. Anticipating that there might be casualties and not expecting much blooming for a while, I have put off setting up a page for them on here. Almost all are duplicates of plants elsewhere in the collection. Most have buds; watch this space.

My next task was to put permanent labels onto the twenty three plants I had donated to the collection a month ago. Satisfyingly, eleven are new varieties and ten are duplicates of varieties represented by a single plant.

Not in collection:
C. japonica ‘Kujaku-tsubaki’
C. japonica ‘Gosho Zakura’
C. japonica ‘Haru-no-utena’
C. japonica ‘Candy Apple’
C. japonica ‘Mermaid’
C. sasanqua ‘Paradise Belinda’
C. x williamsii ‘Rendezvous’
C. hybrid ‘Superscent’
C. x williamsii ‘Mimosa Jury’
C. hybrid ‘Free Spirit’
C. japonica ‘Jules Verne’

One in collection:
C. japonica ‘Tama-no-ura’
C. japonica ‘Nuccio’s Gem’
C. hybrid ‘Apple Blossom’
C. japonica ‘Spring Sonnet’
C. x williamsii ‘Burwell’s Primus’
C. hybrid ‘Brian’
C. japonica ‘John Tooby’
C. x williamsii ‘Plymouth Beauty’
C. x williamsii ‘Monica Dance’

They will get added to their respective sections in due course.

On my way around I snapped away at anything I hadn’t done too many times before and came up with these. Click the images to see larger size with names.

Finally, to revisit a variety I have mentioned before. 1P-039 and 1P-040 are both labelled ‘Peter Betteley’ but it is clear that though similar, they are sister seedlings. 1P-040 has just opened its first bloom; two weeks ago 1P-039 already had several open, adding another small difference to a growing list. The plants are side by side in identical conditions. These are all of 1P-039, this week and last.

Sasanqua season – 4

Show-Girl-3

Or to put it another way, notes from my day at Mount Edgcumbe yesterday.

There were a lot of things blooming in the park yesterday. The sasanquas are in some cases going over, for example ‘Hugh Evans’, ‘Tanya’ and ‘Plantation Pink’. Some, for example ‘Narumigata’, ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Gay Sue’ are still in full flow, a few are just beginning, like ‘Kanjiro’. The sasanqua x reticulata hybrids ‘Flower Girl’ and ‘Show Girl’ are only just starting.

 

 

 

 

Of the rest, there are some that usually flower early, ‘Nobilissima’, ‘November Pink’, ‘Daikagura’ and ‘Gloire de Nantes’, and these are well into their stride. One of the ‘Peter Betteley’ seedlings and ‘Elizabeth Rose Open’ belong in this group. Then there are odd blooms dotted around pretty much at random, one on ‘Inspiration’, one on ‘Cheryll Lynn’, a few on ‘Alexander Black’.

‘Show Girl’ never fails to astonish me. The flowers are huge, that’s it at the top of the page, and produced in the depths of winter. They nevertheless show some measure of resistance to damage and are produced over a very long season. Their pale clear pink is not in the least strident and for all their size the overall effect, to my eye at least, is of refined showiness.

I think I may have solved the problem of the plant at 1G-014, which is labelled ‘Chansonette’ but produces large white single blooms. As noted in an earlier blog, I suspected it might be ‘Kenkyo’, based on some pictures I have of that variety from several years ago and supported by it being a variety that the nursery that supplied it listed. What I needed though was a growing and flowering plant of ‘Kenkyo’. To my very great satisfaction I found one at Trewithen on Monday. On flower form the only other variety it seemed likely to be was ‘Setsugekka’. Comparing all the photographs I have now amassed, it seemed to me that the stamen filaments of ‘Setsugekka’ are slender and cylindrical, compared to 1G-014 and ‘Kenkyo’ (Trewithen), where the filaments are stouter and thickest in the middle, tapering to both ends.
The difference in flower colour in the pictures is not significant as it is due to lighting conditions.
Comparing foliage, the leaves are all quite similar but those of ‘Setsugekka’ are held at roughly 90 degrees to the shoot, whereas on the other two, the leaves are angled well forward on the shoot. The petioles of ‘Setsugekka’ are also stouter and paler in colour. The difference in leaf angle is consistent across the bush, making it a more convincing diagnostic feature than the pictures might imply.

I am satisfied that 1G-014 is in fact ‘Kenkyo’, though I shall never be 100% confident. I shall recommend relabeling it as such.