A new addition.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sasanqua season 2019

I had got it into my head that in previous years the first sasanquas had appeared towards the end of October so when I saw the first flowers today I thought it was an exceptionally early season. As it turns out, I have posted articles about the earliest blooms on 11th October in 2018 and 2017 and in both cases several varieties were flowering. Just one was today, ‘Hugh Evans’ in Area 10.
It nevertheless marks the beginning of a new flowering season so I’m getting my Camellia head back on again.
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There was a bud on ‘Dazzler’ that will be out in days but other than that no colour showing that I noticed. It could end up being a slightly later season than the last couple of years for many varieties.

Elsewhere I spotted a bud on the variety ‘Flirtation’ in Area 1P. As far as I know it’s not flowered before so I’m very much looking forward to seeing what it does. The Register describes it as having medium sized single light pink blooms so it sounds like it may turn out not to have been worth the very long wait. Unless it flowers much more readily on plants grown under cover it would be commercially useless; no-one buys plants with no buds or blooms when they’re surrounded by others that are blooming freely. Why would you want to wait years for a plant to bloom unless it was truly exceptional?

Another plant which is well budded this year is ‘Bonomiana’ in Area 5A. All the bushes in this area were cut back pretty hard this spring, except for this one. I asked for it to be left because it had not bloomed since it was hard pruned about ten years ago so I hadn’t had a chance to verify its identity. The extra light it has received as a result of all its neighbours being cut back has done the trick and it will be one of very few in this section with blooms in 2020.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Sasanqua season 2018 – 2

I’d missed a week when I visited Mt. Edgcumbe on Tuesday and things had moved on a bit, lots more was in flower. First up was ‘Hugh Evans’ (1G-046) and it was immediately obvious that this is going to be a good year for at least some plants. The blooms on this bush are bigger than usual and the petals wider, to the point of overlapping, which they don’t usually do.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’

There are several plants of ‘Hugh Evans’ in the collection and the next one is in the species section. (10-022) Both the individual blooms and the overall display are by far the best I’ve seen on this variety.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’

In the same section, at 10-047, is a large spreading bush of ‘Rainbow’. This is flowering much as it always does and I have no complaints with that. The wasps were enjoying the nectar supply too.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Rainbow’

Further down, in Area 1N, are two bushes of ‘Lavender Queen’ (1N-036 & 1N-037). These are sporting a few more blooms than usual but they are the same small misshapen things it produces every year. When you see such a feeble display you wonder if there is something wrong with the plant as it seems hard to believe the variety would have remained in cultivation otherwise.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Lavender Queen’

Down in the lower Amphitheatre the Japanese section 3C has a few early bloomers, not all of them sasanquas. ‘Setsugekka’ is in full bloom but I covered that in my earlier blog. C. ‘Shiro-wabisuke’ is just beginning to open its beautifully perfumed flowers and C. japonica ‘Benidaikagura’ had a bloom open. It is usually the first of the japonicas to flower. Well back from the path and somewhat hidden from view is C. sasanqua ‘Mine-no-yuki’ (3C-022). This has pure white double flowers up to 6 or 7 cm across and had a few blooms open. Further along in 1L is ‘Snow Flurry’ (1L-040), which I mentioned in my earlier blog but could not ignore as it was looking superb.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine-no-yuki’ & Camellia ‘Snow Flurry’ (hybrid)

Next to ‘Snow Flurry’ is ‘Winter’s Rose’ (1L-055), a pretty semi-double light pink which always flowers quite well. Also in Area 1L are two bushes of ‘Maiden’s Blush’, an upright one down the front (1L-027) and an almost prostrate one at the back (1L-028), which is the one pictured.

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Camellia ‘Winter’s Rose’ (hybrid) & Camellia sasanqua ‘Maiden’s Blush’

Back home I have a bush of ‘Tanya’ on my allotment which puts the two plants of it at Mt Edgcumbe in the shade. I cannot believe that different growing conditions are the only explanation and seriously wonder whether the two plants in the collection are virus infected to the serious detriment of the flowers, in terms of size, quality and quantity. Probably the only way I shall ever know is to propagate mine then graft a piece of a Mt Edgcumbe plant onto it to transfer a virus if there is one. It’s around 4ft tall.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’

The other sasanqua variety I have at home is the one just outside my front window. There is much to be said for having winter flowering plants where they can be enjoyed from indoors and this one fits the bill perfectly.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Navajo’