Dynasties

For several weeks I have been putting the records of the Mt. Edgcumbe camellia collection onto the online database system that Plant Heritage use. It has meant I have been revisiting issues that came up when I first became involved with the collection but had set aside because I was getting nowhere.

I was putting in the data for Area 1L this morning and came across the two plants of Camellia ‘Empire Rose’. The plant labels both say Camellia hybrid ‘Empire Rose’ but I’ve always thought of it as a japonica. Both flower and leaf seem more consistent with it being a japonica than anything else. Entering the record involves checking with the RHS database to see if the name is on there and if so, whether it is the same as I have it for the collection accession. I checked and found ‘Empire Rose’ given as a x williamsii variety.

Back to the Register I went, to see if its parentage was given, which it was, as C. japonica ‘Kimberley’ x C. x williamsii ‘Rendezvous’. I looked up ‘Rendezvous’ to find it was a hybrid of C. x williamsii ‘Joyful Bells’ and C. japonica ‘Australis’. On then to ‘Joyful Bells’, which is C. saluenensis x C. japonica ‘Fuyajo’. So while ‘Empire Rose’ has in its parentage both saluenensis and japonica, and nothing else, making it a legitimate x williamsii hybrid, the saluenensis fraction is one eighth, to seven eighths japonica.

It seems to me slightly ridiculous that it still qualifies as a x williamsii and if ‘Empire Rose’ was back crossed with japonica for another couple of generations, with the progeny then having only 1/32nd saluenensis in their blood, it would seem totally ridiculous.

Empire-Rose

Camellia x williamsii ‘Empire Rose’

Also in Area 1L is a plant labelled Camellia japonica ‘Cinderella’. It has flowers of two sorts, fimbriated and not fimbriated, but both in a plain light scarlet colour.

The fimbriated version is ‘Fred Sander’ and the simpler bloom belongs to ‘Lady de Saumerez’. ‘Fred Sander’ is a sport from ‘Lady de Saumerez’ and is quite unstable so reversion is not unusual. Interestingly, the extra tissue in the flowers of ‘Fred Sander’ means that the buds are larger and show colour much earlier than the buds of ‘Lady de Saumerez’, but then seem reluctant to open, doing so well after ‘Lady de Saumerez’.

‘Cinderella’ is a sport of ‘Fred Sander’ which has bicolored flowers, another unstable characteristic, so it readily sports bicolored but non fimbriated flowers or solid coloured fimbriated flowers. This is what it should look like.

Cinderella

‘Cinderella’

Two sports of ‘Cinderalla’ have been named, ‘Robert Strauss’ and ‘Raspberry Ice’. In ‘Robert Strauss’ the fimbriation is gone and the pink and white have become the body and the edge of the petals respectively. ‘Raspberry Ice’ is said to be very similar.

1N-064-Robert-Strauss

‘Robert Strauss’

‘Lady de Saumerez’ is a solid pink sport of ‘Tricolor’, an old Japanese variety brought to Europe in 1829 by Dr Frans von Siebold. The Japanese name for it is ‘Ezo-nishiki’. It has also produced a fimbriated sport directly, without ‘Lady de Saumerez’ as an intermediary, which is called ‘Dainty’ (California). Like ‘Cinderella’ it’s blooms are bicolored and fimbriated, but the petals are not twisted and crumpled as they are in ‘Cinderalla’. It is just as unstable and produces a mix of fimbriated and non fimbriated blooms most of which are red striped on a white ground, with some solid red and pure white flowers thrown in.

There are other names on the family tree, some of them variegated by dint of virus infection like ‘Lady MacKinnon’ as distinct from the genetic variegation of ‘Tricolor’ and all the bicolors mentioned here. The whole tribe though is a product of mutations rather than reproduction through seed. The genetics underpinning stripey flowers is intriguing and I cannot pretend to really understand it. If you want to know more you need to look up “jumping genes” or transposable elements, and check out the Nobel Prize winning cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock. Fascinating stuff.

Tricolor

Camellia japonica ‘Tricolor’

Identity Crises

One of the wrongly named plants that had been exercising me recently is a bush in the oldest of the European sections that is labelled Duchesse Decazes. There are actually three plants in this section, 5A, with that name and two are currently in flower. One appears to be correct and looks like this.
Duchess-Decazes

The other one is very different and clearly wrong, in that it doesn’t match any of the descriptions or pictures that I’ve been able to find of ‘Duchess Decazes’. They’re a tricky lot, these old bicolors. They have nearly all given rise to small families of sports, so my first thought was whether it was a mutation, but it’s a solid, clear red and that seemed unlikely.
IMG_7479-5A-019-Duchess-Decazes
Yesterday I was in an American section and came across ‘Firebird’ in flower. It seemed unlikely that a fairly modern American variety would have become confused with an old European but the similarity was there and they were flowering at the same time. I cut a shoot of ‘Firebird’ and took it along to compare minutely with the putative ‘Duchesse Decazes’. In this picture the flower on the right is from ‘Firebird’ and the two on the left from the supposed ‘Duchesse Decazes’.   Not ‘Duchesse Decazes’ any more. I could find no significant differences in either flowers or foliage so I believe that’s another error resolved.
Fire-Falls

In the same section is a plant labelled ‘Bonomiana’ which, when the whole section was being hard pruned in spring 2019 I asked to be spared as it had not flowered since its last hair cut and I hadn’t had an opportunity to verify it’s identity. Yesterday I spotted a few blooms opening. It appears to be identical to two plants elsewhere that are labelled ‘Tricolor Sieboldii’, a name that is a synonym for ‘Tricolor’ and which makes no sense whatever. It also appears to be identical to one in the English section 2A which is labelled ‘Alba Plena’. Unhelpfully there is another Camellia in 2A labelled ‘Alba Plena’ but it is clearly not the same.

There are quite a number of formal double white varieties around so I’m not optimistic about pinning this one down but it does have a few notable characteristics. The flowers are quite small, 7-8 cm across at most. They shatter very readily, more than once I tried to manipulate a flower into a better position for taking its picture only to have it disintegrate in a shower of petals. The growth habit is dense and very upright, the more so on young or heavily pruned plants. As far as the Mt Edgcumbe collection goes, it is the first formal double white to be flowering.

I was pleased to find flowers out on a couple of recent additions to the collection. ‘Dream Girl’ completes the trio of Girls raised by Howard Asper from sasanqua x reticulata crosses. It will be interesting to compare the performance of the three varieties in similar conditions.
Dream-Girl

The other one is a seedling I raised some years ago from open pollinated seed collected from C. reticulata ‘Mary Williams’. Most of the progeny were singles like the parent but a few produced semi-double flowers. The bloom has only just opened and will get bigger; the colour is a fairly fierce pink. When I first saw a flower on it I fancied there was the influence of something other than C. reticulata in it, presumably that pollen had been carried in from elsewhere, there being nothing in the immediate vicinity flowering at the same time. ‘Serendipity’ seemed an appropriate working name. I’ll give it a year or two to really get established before making a decision on whether to register it.
Serendipity-2

 

Presentation Area.

Presentation-area-2
The Presentation Area was the first part of the collection to be planted and is the last part to receive my attention. It was planted, or at least started, on 7th April 1976, so it will soon be 44 years old. I don’t have a definitive list of what was planted initially but the impression I get is that almost all of the plants there now are originals.

I didn’t have a plan of the area so have drawn a new one which I will put in the page for the section in due course. It is in the formal gardens, backing onto the recently created apiary. It is not a big area, being roughly 30m long by 5m wide, and contains 67 plants. That works out at an average of 1.5m spacing, which must have seemed quite adequate at the time but looks very crowded now.

It later transpired that they had homed in on almost the only outcrop of limestone in the county of Cornwall on which to locate the planting, perhaps accounting for the modest growth the plants have made. It is perhaps surprising that they have done as well as they have and have survived so long.

The planting was done as part of the International Camellia Society’s conference program in 1976 and in his write-up of this part of it in the ICS bulletin of November 1976, Robin Miller has this to say:

“We attended the ceremonial plantings, a pleasantly international affair with spades wielded by Milton Brown from the U.S.A., Monsieur Andre Baumann from France, Lady Mount Edgcumbe, William Kemp for the Middle Georgia Camellia Society, Les Jury from
New Zealand, the Chairman of Cornwall County Council and the Joint Park
Committee, the deputy Lord Mayor of Plymouth and, most appropriately of all, by
David Trehane himself, planting one of a group of Camellia ‘E. G. Waterhouse'”

In a further piece in the same publication, David Trehane adds:

“Lady Mount Edgcumbe planted ‘Inspiration’ (the planting being her idea!); the
Chairman of the Parks Committee planted’ Anticipation’ (for obvious reasons); the
Deputy Lord Mayor chose ‘Plymouth Beauty’; the Chairman of the Cornwall County
Council a ‘J. C. Williams’; Milton Brown (U .S.A.) a ‘Little Lavender’; Bill Kemp (for
the American and the Middle Georgia Camellia Societies) a row of ‘Brigadoon’; and
Les Jury (New Zealand) a ‘Grand Jury’.”

There’s a grainy black and white photograph showing a number of white haired gentlemen in smart attire, wielding shiny stainless steel spades to plant what look to be good sized camellias in full flower. 1976 suddenly seems a very long time ago. I remember it well enough for the hot summer and drought, a portent of things to come, though we didn’t realise that at the time.

Some of the plants have engraved labels, some have pencil written tie-on labels, some have no labels. My first task is to verify the accuracy of the labelled plants and to try to identify the rest. This will entail frequent visits through the flowering season, taking photographs and checking the identity against the name. As an overall picture emerges I shall put a set of pictures on the section page.

There are two reasons I have put off tackling this section; firstly, it is a long way away from the main collection and secondly, if I’m honest, the varieties in it are not very interesting. Most are early x williamsii varieties, nice enough but in hindsight, way too many similar varieties were named. ‘Donation’ (1941) and ‘Anticipation’ (1962) would have represented a foretaste of how much more potential the meeting of japonica and saluenensis had.
Presentation-area

 

Notes from the park -31/12/2019

Last day of the year and I thought I’d take advantage of a dry forecast to go and see what was happening. There was plenty to see.

Star of the show, as she is every year around this time, is ‘Show Girl’ in the species section. It is one of three in the collection and reliably the best.
Show-Girl-16
Show-Girl-17

It was a very gloomy day with a little drizzle and she just blazed out in defiance. To the left of her in the wide picture you can just make out the small, vivid pink blooms of ‘Kanjiro’. In spite of that looking as good as I’ve seen it, you can barely see it. It just underlines how good ‘Show Girl’ is. The blooms are nearly six inches across.
Show-Girl-18

In my last blog on November 18th, I was telling the tale of acquiring and planting Camellia ‘Yoimachi’. It’s only a short distance away from ‘Show Girl’. I’m pleased to say it seems to have settled in exceptionally well and is flowering as if nothing had happened. The vivid pink behind it is ‘Shishigashira’.
Yoimachi-5Yoimachi-4

As mentioned above, the variety ‘Kanjiro’, of which there are two in this area, is flowering well, as is the single plant of ‘Hiryû’. The name ‘Hiryû’ was invalidly used for ‘Kanjiro’ in Australia, an error that shouldn’t have spilled over to the UK, but maybe has. I compared the two varieties today and could see no difference between them, in flower or foliage. The two plants of ‘Kanjiro’ are a bit more upright but that could be because they are in a less shaded spot. Assuming they are the same, I now need to work out which name is correct. ‘Hiryû’ is given as x vernalis, ‘Kanjiro’ as hiemalis, which would suggest there should be an obvious difference between them.
Kanjiro-2

However, x vernalis is a hybrid between sasanqua and japonica and has given rise to a rather diverse group of cultivars. Hiemalis is given species status by some botanists but is almost certainly another sasanqua x japonica hybrid group, and just for good measure, Camellia sasanqua, the species, has small white flowers and it is likely that most of the designated cultivars of it that are in cultivation are again hybrids.

One variety flowering down in Japanese section 3C is definitely attributable to x vernalis, in that I am convinced that in spite of it being labelled C. pitardii, it is in fact C. x vernalis ‘Ginryû’. See my blog from February 2018.
Ginryu

Then there were the rest. Here’s a montage, by no means exhaustive.

Row 1: ‘Lily Pons’, ‘St Ewe’, ‘Cornish Snow’, ‘Inspiration’, ‘Winton’.
Row 2: ‘Chatsworth Belle’, ‘Kewpie Doll’, ‘Paradise Glow’, ‘Mabel Blackwell, ‘Peter Betteley’.
Row 3: ‘Winter’s Snowman’, ‘John Pickthorne’, ‘Little Bit Red’, ‘Scented Red’, grijsii.
Row 4: ‘Peter Betteley’, ‘Nobilissima’, ‘Flower Girl’, ‘Bonanza’, ‘Winter’s Toughie’.
Row 5: ‘Elizabeth Dowd’, ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Gay Sue’, ‘Little Lavender’, Tinker Toy’.

 

A new addition.

Yoimachi-1
A few days ago I found myself reading a 1982 article by Dr Clifford Parks about hybrids of Camellia sasanqua. I was looking up the background to C. ‘Snow Flurry’, an Ackerman cross with C. oleifera, one he was to repeat many times.

Perhaps the most interesting cross that Parks mentioned was one he made himself with Camellia fraterna, the other parent being C. sasanqua ‘Narumigata’. He had named it ‘Yoi Machi’ and described it as “a fine textured shrub with very delicate flowers”. It seems to have become ‘Yoimachi’ in the Camellia register.

Yoimachi-3
It reminded me that I knew where there was one growing, and effectively abandoned. I am very pleased to say that it is abandoned no more, having today been dug up and transported to Mt Edgcumbe where it has been planted in the species section, Area 10.
The pictures above are of it in its previous quarters in February 2017.

Yoimachi-2

A good proportion of the plants in Area 10 are forms of Camellia sasanqua or the closely related C. hiemalis. There are around 20 mostly large bushes flowering there right now and looking ethereally beautiful in the low light of autumn.

sasanquas-4

Top row: ‘Paradise Hilda’, ‘Plantation Pink’, ‘Sparkling Burgundy’.
Middle Row: sport of ‘Hugh Evans’, Paradise Glow’, ‘Rainbow’.
Bottom Row: ‘Hugh Evans’, ‘Navajo’, ‘Dazzler’.

Notes from the park 21/10/2019

I popped up the park this morning with a few plants in the car. One was a large Agave which has become too big to keep lugging into the greenhouse for winter. They’re going to plant it in the park; they hardly ever get frost, being right by the sea.

Also on board was a camellia that I raised some years ago from seed of Camellia reticulata ‘Mary Williams’, a plant in the reticulata section that usually produces a good number of seed pods. I sowed quite a number and was amazed to have many of them blooming at less than two years old. I discarded the singles, kept the doubles and then selected three that showed promise. Today I took one back to the park. I call it ‘Serendipity’, though the name has not been registered. The plant is about five feet tall and was in a 20 litre pot, so it should be big enough to survive life in the big wide world. It has large pink semi-double flowers that have something of x williamsii about them, though the leaves are pure reticulata. ‘Mary Williams’ flowers very early so there will not have been any other reticulatas in bloom at the time so the nearest camellias in flower at the same time are some way off.
Serendipity

On the subject of raising Camellias from seed, I noticed today that C. ‘Admiral Spry’ had a good crop of pods on it. This is a bicolored single that is in one of the English sections. It has irregularly pink and white striped flowers with a few all white and all pink blooms as well. Since the genetics that underpins this is not chimaeral, I am wondering whether the bicolored character would come through in its seedlings. I shall certainly be giving it a try. Most of the seed pods are green with some red striping, which struck me as encouraging.Admiral-Spry-2

I had a wide angle lens on the camera, geared up to take a few floral close ups and maybe the odd view. As it turned out, my first photo opportunity was a fox standing on the path a hundred yards or so away. It had its back to me so I tried to creep a bit closer but it almost certainly saw me before I saw it. It’s a rubbish picture but here it is anyway.
fox

 

Sasanqua season 2019 – 2

Is it the right time to go up to the park to see the sasanquas? Well, no, not quite yet. I found eight varieties in flower today but most only just beginning with a handful of blooms. Give it another three or four weeks.

sasanquas-1

Here are the first four, clockwise from top left ‘Hugh Evans’ (1G-046), ‘Tanya’ (1G-110), ‘New Dawn’ (5A-050) and ‘Rainbow’ (10-075). Cropping the pictures makes the flowers all look the same size but ‘Tanya’ and ‘New Dawn’ are small at 3-4cm across, ‘Hugh Evans’ and ‘Rainbow’ about twice that. Poor old ‘Rainbow’ now has a large tree trunk lying alongside it, a beech tree that fell down earlier this year and is unlikely to be removed. The increased light levels will be very much to the liking of ‘Rainbow’ and the other camellias around, most of them sasanqua forms.

Further down in section 10 I found myself revisiting an old conundrum. ‘Narumigata’ (10-034) turned out to be two different camellias planted together. ‘Narumigata’ isn’t in flower yet but the other one, 10-078, is. It is very like ‘Rainbow’ in flower but the leaf is quite different, narrower and more pointed. There’s a plant of ‘Rainbow’ growing beside it and side by side the differences are obvious enough.

sasanquas-2

Top row is ‘Rainbow’ (10-047), bottom row the unknown variety. There are several single white sasanqua varieties that it could be and it would be nice to be able to put a name to it with high confidence.

Section 10 is known as the species section but about half of what is in it is sasanqua varieties. Hugh Evans and Plantation Pink are among the first to open and are starting to look good now.

sasanquas-3

Clockwise from top left, ‘Hugh Evans’ (10-022) consistently has the most and the largest blooms for the variety out of the five plants of it in the park. I put that down to it growing in the most suitable conditions, moist soil and a good bit of sunshine; ‘Plantation Pink’ (10-044) is one of two in this section, both good; ‘Setsugekka’ (3C-027) is in the Japanese section in the lower Amphitheatre and a little further down still in section 1L is ‘Snow Flurry’ (1L-040). This last plant is one of a number of William Ackerman’s hybrids along the back of section L and until a couple of years ago it was in the deep shade of a mature Beech tree. It is no longer, the tree having fallen. The transformation of ‘Snow Flurry’ and its neighbour ‘Winter’s Rose’ (1L-055) could not be more striking. From appearing barely worth growing for lack of bloom they have turned into some of the most floriferous winter flowerers in the park. Here’s a picture of ‘Snow Flurry’ that shows how much bud it has. The Red Admiral was enjoying it too.

Snow-Flurry-9

Snow-Flurry-10

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