Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’ is represented in the Mount Edgcumbe collection by a single plant, the only one I have encountered anywhere. It was planted in an area that has been hard hit by trees falling in recent years and in July 2017 the very old and massive beech tree under which it was growing blew down. In a moment it went from being in deep shade to being almost fully exposed on a south facing slope.
I had taken pictures of it before this happened but had never thought of it as anything remotely special. That changed dramatically in the autumn of 2018 when it put on a truly wonderful flower display that lasted many weeks and it has almost matched it again this year. It has been the showiest of the autumn flowering camellias throughout October both this year and last, although most of the others are growing in shade and would almost certainly produce much more bloom if grown in sunnier situations.
‘Snow Flurry’ is a product of William L. Ackerman’s breeding program in the USA. His objective was to extend the geographical range over which Camellias could be successfully grown in America into areas experiencing colder winters. Building on the work of earlier breeders and informed by the devastation wrought by successive cold winters in the late 1970’s, he started his own breeding program. He identified Camellia oleifera as a key species in regard to potential cold hardiness and the selection he found to be the most hardy he named ‘Plain Jane’ in 2002. This was introduced as seed from a Botanic Garden in Nanjing, China, in 1948 and a plant established at the U.S. Plant Introduction Station in Glenn Dale, Maryland. Though not being of commercial quality itself, Ackerman was to use it very extensively in his hybridising program.
He knew that C. oleifera would cross readily with C. sasanqua and C. hiemalis but that crossing with C. japonica and C. x williamsii would be extremely difficult. Between 1978 and 1982 around 10,000 crosses were made, resulting in 2500 seedlings. Field evaluations began in 1982.
C. ‘Snow Flurry’ is a hybrid of C. oleifera ‘Plain Jane’ x ‘Frost Princess’ (C.hiemalis x C.oleifera). It first flowered in 1980 as a seven year old seedling. It is the earliest of his autumn blooming series, flowering from late September or early October until Late November. The anemone form blooms are 6-8cm across with moderate scent. It is cold hardy to -10°F (-23°C). Growth is quite vigorous, with long arching shoots.
The advice regarding growing conditions for Camellias is almost always to grow them in shade or part shade. It is clear that as far as growing in East Cornwall is concerned, that is bad advice, especially for the autumn/winter flowering forms. Full sun will produce the best flower display but there is a risk of the plant becoming too dry in summer. A generous root run without competition from other plants in well mulched, moisture retentive soil would be the ideal. Irrigation when needed should be applied if the plant is in the open and at risk of drought stress.