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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I moved a plant.

Seriously though, I just moved a sizeable camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’ from my allotment to my garden. Here’s how it went.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’ on 24/10/2018

We had a good drop of rain a few days ago. I gave it a couple of days to drain away, but a reasonable amount of water in the soil is essential and it is rarely safe to lift plants this size until well into the autumn. There needs to have been a good deal of rain to get the soil below a large evergreen shrub really moist.

I reduced the size of the bush by about a third. This will help reduce stress on the plant while it grows a new root system and made lifting it a bit easier.


I have a narrow bladed, stainless steel spade that I like to use for the next stage, which is to cut round the rootball. I dig straight down all around the plant, just cutting through the soil and roots, without levering on the spade at all. Next I use my old rather worn down spade with a fibreglass handle to take out a wedge of soil outside the vertical cut. I then cut in under the root system at around 45 degrees and start to lever the plant up to break any roots that go straight down below the root ball. I might have had to chop through roots going straight down below the rootball but in this instance didn’t need to.


Once the plant is free, but while it is still in the hole, I chopped some of the soil away to reduce the size and weight of the root ball. My aim was to remove soil where there were insufficient roots to hold the soil in place. Since the root system was not evenly dense all around the plant, I cut more soil away on one side than the other.

I then pulled the plant out of its hole, remove a little more soil from the top and bottome of the rootball, taking care not to damage the base of the stem, before trimming the bits of root sticking out of the rootball flush. It’s hard to say how big a rootball a plant should have. Too small will leave the plant struggling to stay upright and get enough water; too big and moving the plant without the whole lot breaking away becomes very difficult.

Next I lifted the plant onto a sheet of polythene which I drew tightly up around the stem base and tied with polypropylene string. This wrapping needs to be tight as possible to help keep the rootball intact while it is moved.


I lifted the plant into my wheelbarrow and pushed it back the mile or so to my garden in the village. Got a few odd looks. Avoided curbs and potholes.

Dug a hole, popped the plant into it. Too deep, took it out, put a bit of soil back, put the plant back in, filled around the sides, working the soil down with the spade, gave it a good watering. Job’s a good’n. It will take at least two seasons for the root system to be extensive enough to withstand drought as well as it did before being moved, so I’ll be prepared to give it an occasional drench if it is needed. Being a sasanqua variety I didn’t even consider feeding it. Had it been a japonica or x williamsii I still probably wouldn’t feed it until its second season.

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Planted in new quarters.

I have lifted several hundred Camellias in this way, some 6 feet or more tall; some to be potted, some replanted in the ground. Very large plants will usually suffer a check but all have grown away after a couple of seasons settling in.

I am in Cornwall, UK. In areas with colder winters it would be better to move them at the end of the winter but they would then have less time to put down roots before conditions became dryer, so watering would be more likely to be needed.

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’