Spring flowers are a real delight, especially after the dark days of winter. Bright crocus, deliciously scented winter honeysuckle, carpets of nodding hellebores and tiny fragrant sarcococca flowers all light up the garden but one flower that stands out amongst them all is the camellia. People will admire the majority of flowers and gardens on the go as they stroll past but stop and stare at exotic camellias in bloom.
Their show starts well before Christmas in September when conspicuous flower buds form and you watch them in expectation for five months. They gradually begin to swell. in late January and then flower from late February onwards.
As they flower early, the buds slowly open up revealing their flowers with a degree of succession as opposed to all at one moment. This can be a form of slow pain if you are desperate to see them or long lasting delight.
They will flower for at least a month, all be it with a bit of colour explosion towards the end as a grand finale, so you definitely get value for colour.
There are some lovely colours to choose from; whites, creams, pinks and reds in various styles of flower from single rows of petals, rather like a rose, to multiple rows of flower petals and peony shaped flowers.
Favourites of mine are Jury’s Yellow which, despite its name, is more of a cream than a yellow with a delicate ruffled flower centre.
Debbie has a slightly more random growth habit giving it individuality and the most stunning semi-double pink flowers
Moving towards the red end of the scale, Lady Campbell is perfect in her habit, very neat and formal with pretty pinky red flowers.
Finally the ultimate true red has to be Les Jury, absolutely stunning flower perfection.
The three best places to plant camellias in your garden are in pots, in a sheltered border next to your house or just on the edge of the canopy of a tree.
Planting in pots is great for camellias because, as it is early spring, you are not in your garden as much as normal so you can move the pot to your front door porch, outside your kitchen window or somewhere that you pass to gain daily enjoyment. When the flowers are finished, then move you pot away to a sheltered discrete position and replace with something else.
Borders beside the house are great, the camellia will enjoy the protection from a house wall and again you can watch the early flowers every day. Avoid a North facing position as the flowers will get damaged in frosts especially white ones
The final great option is under a tree at a distance from your house where you can enjoy focal colour from a distance in your garden. This is a beautiful view that brings on huge pride and the camellia will love the shelter from the tree and perform to its best.
The top tip for camellias near to the house and in pots is remove any tiring flower heads, like you do on a rose, this will make your plant always look like it is on its first day of flowering.
They like a little shelter from the sun so avoid a baking hot corner, dappled shade is their perfect situation. Give them shelter from the wind if your garden tends to be blustery. The best way to do this is plant amongst other plants so they all shelter each other, protection in numbers if you like.
They love cool roots, don’t plant them any deeper than soil level, if anything a fraction higher than soil level and then cover them with 5cm of fine pine bark mulch, they will love it.
Camellias look really exotic but in reality they are easy to grow and will be the star of your spring garden.