You looked? Well look again.

My note for 1G-006 ‘Blood of China’ is short and to the point, it should be solid red and is bicolored. It’s wrongly labelled, job done, move on, don’t need to look at that again. Well today I looked a little closer. What I saw was that there are bicolored flowers, almost solid red versions of the bicolored flowers and red flowers of a different hue, shape and with quite distinct foliage. Track which blooms are on which branches and it turns out that there are two plants together, one of which is ‘Blood of China’, the other probably ‘Comte de Gomer’.

That was first thing this morning. Practically the last thing I looked at, on my way to the car park, was ‘Rosemary Sawle’. There are two side by side in Area 9, quite different from each other. I concluded long ago that one was in fact ‘Olga Carlyon’. Today I noticed a particularly small bloom on the other plant. You can see it towards bottom right of the picture. Look closely and you will see that the main vertical stem has smaller leaves than the branches to the left with the larger flowers on them. Again, there are two plants together here, ‘Rosemary Sawle’ and probably a self sown seedling of a williamsii cross. In my defence this may be the first time that part of the bush has flowered.Rosemary-Sawle

It’s getting towards the end of Camellia season, except for a handful of stragglers. There was a lot to see today though and my camera was kept busy. Here are some highlights to enjoy.

Of Clouds and Silver Linings


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.


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.


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.


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.


Area 3C has taken a battering.


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.

Aftermath of the Beast


The RHS Early Camellia Competition takes place at Rosemoor this coming weekend so I was interested to see whether there was anything at Mt Edgcumbe to suggest that anyone might have blooms to exhibit. I didn’t find any that were really show quality but at least there were a few putting on a bit of a show. I even managed a bit of sunshine for most of the pictures.

Provided we don’t get a repetition of last week’s horrors, they will bounce back quickly and in a week or two be looking really good.

Here is one that won’t be looking good in a week’s time. ‘Jitsugetsusei’ was a big bush in the singles section and sadly it has broken off at ground level. A classic Higo variety, it had masses of flowers on it, most ruined by the frost. There are some shoots coming up from where the main trunk broke which appear to be the variety, not a rootstock, so with luck it will be back in years to come. A young plant of it was planted in Area 3B in 2016, so it is at least secure in the collection.




Further down I encountered devastation on a much greater scale. At the top of the Amphitheatre, last Thursdays wind had brought down a number of trees, one a very tall Nothofagus dombeyi which crashed through the Japanese section 3C. It won’t be possible to see the full extent of the damage until the tree has been cleared but I would expect four or five plants to have suffered serious damage.

In the first picture you at first see nothing but look closely and the root of the fallen tree is in the centre of the picture with the top of it just reaching the conifer on the left. In the middle picture the towering evergreen tree in the centre is the second of the pair of Nothofagus dombeyi, planted no more than ten feet apart and leaning as much and in the same direction as the one that fell.

The last picture is what is left of Camellia ‘The Mikado’. As ghastly as it looks, it will eventually recover. My greatest concern is for ‘Takayama’, which is directly under the trunk out of picture to the right. It is the only one in the collection and is a beautiful variety.

In a few months time I shall look at the title I have given this piece and wonder what it’s about. The beast from the east found its way in to some usually fairly sheltered places and wreaked havoc.

Some of my volunteer days are uplifting, some are heartbreaking; today was one of the latter.

‘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.