plant lust list: Camellia

plant lust list: Camellia

Seriously. There’s not Camellia one in my garden. I thought I didn’t like them. But I suspect it’s a prejudice born of those ubiquitous mis-pruned Camellias of my youth. When I was a kid, every yard had at least one, and usually more. Apparently, though, they ain’t supposed to be primarily giant light-blocking lollipops–good for concealing pint-sized, water-pistols packing assailants.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been studying the Gosslers’ Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs. Focusing on one Genus at a time is much better than mad-scanning and racing to the next plant. Breathe, Patricia! Here’s what the Gosslers have to say about the lovely Camellia:

These ornamental shrubs have been grown in their native lands for hundreds of years by gardeners, and they have been grown in Western gardens for at least 150 years. The glossy, dark green leaves of Camellia japonica are a standard feature in the gardens of the Pacific Coast, and in the South from Virginia to Texas. The flowers can be single, semidouble, or formal double, ranging in color from white to pink to deep red, with many hundreds of variations. Our problem in the Northwest is that the flowers can be blemished or ruined when they bloom in early spring. We have tried many forms of C. japonica over the years, but our climate is too cool, and the flowers are ruined most years by rain and cold weather. (OOOOOH, another reason I thought I didn’t like them. Wrong plant in the wrong place.) However, we really like some of the hardier species’ first-generation hybrids and Camellia x williamsii hybrids.

Camellia includes an enormous range of options. We strongly encourage you to try the species and newer hybrids from the eastern United States to what will grow in your garden. 

Origin: China, Japan. Hardiness: Zones 6-9. Exposure: Afternoon shade.

And because I’m just learning, I hope you will forgive the lack of identifications on some of these Camellias. I can note that I’m drawn to an open undulating style–with single-ish flowers. And light to white colors. Unless I see a dynamite red or pink, and then none of that.

Camellia on the Concordia University Campus.

Camellia on the Concordia University Campus.

It looks good even when the bloom is a bit faded.

Lovely even as it fades.

Lovely even as it fades.

And I’m a sucker for anything reminiscent of Romney coulteri–though I’ve been warned about their thuggish ways.

White single flower in Skidmore Woods.

White single flower in Skidmore Woods.

I’m not one for a riot of color, but a blossom here or there in bleak winter is pretty fabulous.

White Camellia that mimics the look of Romneya coulteri aka Matilija Poppy.

White Camellia that mimics the look of Romneya coulteri aka Matilija Poppy.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland knows from Camellias. There’s the undulating form I’m talking about. Just let some kid try to hide behind that.

Camellia NOID at Chinese Gardens

Camellia NOID at Chinese Gardens

I wanted to go to the Chinese Garden yesterday, but alas, ice storm. This is getting old. While most of the city was thawed, we still had icicles. I’m hoping it gets better soon, and that Back to Eden Bakery has the gluten and dairy free chocolate mint cake. It’s the weekend, so dessert is permissible.

Chocolate Mint Cake from Back to Eden Bakery

Chocolate Mint Cake from Back to Eden Bakery

Oh, wait a minute, back to Camellias. I’m about as focused as Charlie Kaufman. (Sorry for telling the same jokes over and over. I have only a few favorites, so they have to be re-used.)

I did manage to record the name of the Camellia below, Camellia transnokoensis.

I like how the smattering of the blooms in Skidmore Woods below dresses up the green foliage.

Pink blossoms hither and yon.

Pink blossoms hither and yon.

I mean, look. Such beauty exists. (Check out Great Plant Picks for their suggestions too. Theirs are actually identified.)

Camellia NOID. Crazy gorgeous, right?

Camellia NOID. Crazy gorgeous, right?

I haven’t narrowed down my choice, and of course, don’t have your suggestions yet. But I’m on the case, and I can’t wait to hear from you Camellia aficionados out there. Feel free to send your favorites this direction, please.

Cheers

  • Loree

    It’s been years since I politely showed my one Camellia to the door, and I’ve been thinking on reintroducing a better choice ever since. Top of my list: http://plantlust.com/plants/17400/camellia-night-rider/

    • Okay. I’m going to check that one out. It looks fabulous in your photo on plant lust! Thx

  • Alyson CooperWilliams

    I like camellias but at this point I’d just go for that cake from Back to Eden bakery. Oh and I see it’s conveniently on the way home from Garden Fever for me.

    • Did you go by Back to Eden? In late breaking news, they’ve switched to a Cherry Chocolate version. I got one anyway, because I love knowledge! Hoping it’s just as delicious. Cheers

      • Alyson CooperWilliams

        Not yet but some Master Gardener pals and I met up yesterday and decided we’d do a local ‘road trip” to Portland Nursery, Garden Fever, then end up at Back to Eden. Oh BTW, Dennis 7 Dees nursery has bought the Shorty’s Nursery over here in Vancouver. I spoke to the Shorty’s staff; name and staff will remain but some changes will be made. I’m hoping for more inventory.

  • Tim Vojt

    I think I love Camellias because I’ve never lived anywhere that they will grow. I tried one of the new, super-hardy varieties, but the blooms generally froze and it succumbed to a sever winter.
    I love the red, pendant-looking Camellia in the photo from Lan Su. So unique and beautiful!

    • Oh, that’s so sad. Sometimes I don’t show proper respect for the poor cold zones–so busy am I pining for warmer ones. This year has sure given me my comeuppance. Today is curbside yard debris pickup, and I don’t even have my bin out. I meant to. But I’m such a baby when it’s low 30s and raining. So many grasses that need to be clipped–and they fill the bin fast. I’ll be sorry later–and trying to sneak debris in to my neighbors’ bins. Cheers, Tim