Growing Beautiful Camellias

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The camellia is a simple yet stunning spring flower that brings a gorgeous burst of colour to the garden when little else is in bloom. They seemed to go out of fashion for a few years but like all beautiful things, they have returned stronger than ever and can now be seen across the gardens of Scotland and rest of the UK.

The first recorded camellia in the UK was grown by Lord Petre at Thorndon Hall in Essex in the 1730s and the first named varieties to attract public attention were C. japonica 'Alba Plena' and 'Variegata', both of which arrived on an East India Company ship in 1792.

As if their beaty wasn't enough, as a cousin of the tea plant, you can dry and ferment the leaves for a tasty and delicious hot infusion.

Ken grows a spectacular array of camellias at his nursery in Glendoick and in this short video column, he'll explain just how to get the most out of this gorgeous flower when you're planting in Scottish soil and at the mercy of our weather!



"What we're standing in front of here is a collection of Glendoick grown camellias.  The colour range of camellias that do well in Scotland are really just pinks and reds - dont ask for white camellias they don't flower well at all. 

The ones that do really well in Scotland are the Williams Eye Camellias and these are based on a Chinese Camellia species and they flower well in cool summer areas like Scotland.  This one in the video I'm particularly keen on is a new one called Black Lace which has an amazing peony flower. 

We also have Donation (pictured), probably the most famous free flowering pink chamellia of all time - it covers itself in flower every year even when its absolutely tiny.

Unfortunately many chamellias that are sold in Scotland simply don't flower.  People come into Glendoick reporting that they've bought chamellias from other chains of garden centres and DIY shops (that will remain nameless) and even after 5 or 10 years they've never flowered.

The problem is that the camellia japonica variety just doesn't flower in Scotland as it's not hot enough for them to set flower buds. So make sure you avoid thi sone.

The secret with camellias is to avoid an East facing aspect because as they swell, if they have early morning sun on a cold morning, you lose the flowers. 

Generally they will go on flowering for weeks and weeks - especially if you get a reasonably kind Spring. The one shown in the video here is called Freedom Bell - it has the longest flowering period of all and often goes on for two months.

They like acid soil, reasonably well drained but moist and they do well against a wall amellias are evergreen and you can even use them as an informal hedge or screen or as a flowering laurel idea which you can prune to shape. 

In a small garden situation that they might get too big and we do find that if this happens and you cut them back you might lose the flowers for a year. However, they respond extremely well overall so don't worry about doing it.


Ken Cox is the resident Small City, Big Personality Garden columnist and expert. Born in 1964 into a family of renowned plantsmen, Kenneth Cox is grandson of planthunter, writer and nurseryman Euan Cox and son of Peter Cox VMH. The three generations were and are considered  the world's leading experts on rhododendrons. 

You can buy camellias grown and raised in Scotland from Glendoick's online shop.  Their spring orders are now complete but you can book now for Autumn deliveries. MORE>>>


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