Saturday 7 April 2012

The Camellia makeover

Every winter I wait with eagerness for the grand lady of my garden to start flowering. Will she open her first flower before Christmas? Will I have to wait until April to see her first flowers?? In the 10 years I have lived at my house, the camellia has opened its first flower at any time between 20th December and 8th April, so it is anybody’s guess when it will happen – and I think it is more dependent on the weather and temperature of the winter as a whole, not just the last few weeks before it starts flowering. This year was a rather early start, with first flower opened at 19th February.

The camellia was here when I moved in 10 years ago so I have no idea how old it is; one of the few plants that were worth saving when I started clearing up the garden. I would guess it is around 30 years old but it could be much older than that. It produces an abundance of flowers every year and all I do is a light pruning every other year or so, no watering or fertiliser. But halfway through its flowering I give it a makeover, and every year I say to myself that next year I shall just let the flowers drop and leave it to it....but then when next year come I can’t resist, knowing that a few hours of work will make this beauty look so much more beautiful. At a distance she doesn’t look too bad here, but you can see that lots of the flowers are brown edged and dried.

Come a bit closer and you’ll see what I mean, lots of flowers that have gone over and flowers browned by the cold night temperatures we have had lately.

The only way to smarten her up a bit is to hand-pick the spent flowers, whilst trying not to drop too many of them on the ground.... impossible task, as more flowers drop to the ground than what I can possibly catch! Have you ever tried to sweep bark mulch?? Yep, tried it, not possible. I pick up the leaves from the ground though, they take many years to wither down, but I leave the fallen petals to dry, they blend in with the bark in a matter of weeks. Still, I filled this tray four times with just petals!

Giving the camellia a makeover is a messy task, I get petals everywhere; in my hair and even inside the pockets of my garden cardigan!

But look how lovely the young flowers and buds look, there are lots and lots still to come here.

Most of the camellia flowers look like this, a strong dark pink colour.

But some of the flowers are a shade lighter pink.

And some of them are really light pink. I don’t know if it is normal to produce such different shades of colours on even the same branches, but I am no expert on camellias....

And here she is, all finished, after a two hours makeover. Well worth the effort I think, and she is now ready for another good few weeks of flowering.

I don’t know which type my camellia is, and I must have looked at several hundred photos from nurseries to try to find one that looked close enough in colour, petal shape etc, but I still haven’t found my camellia. I do wonder if mine is as old as the gardens are; my house is a Victorian house and in the 50s and 60s all the houses got back extensions for indoor toilets and the back yards got converted into gardens. Perhaps the owners at that time planted this camellia and being such a long time ago, this camellia might have ‘gone out of fashion’ by now. Anyone recognise these particular dark pink flowers with the pointed petals? I’d love to know the name :-) Until next time, take care.


  1. I do not grow this beauty, but my goodness it is amazing when you can pick off the browned petals and all those blooms are still there.

  2. Must extend the bllom time too as well as looking so much better. Greate plant to inherit

  3. It's even more lovely now it's had a makover! The carpet of petals underneath looks really pretty too x

  4. What a beautiful camellia!! I love that it blooms in different shades of pink. If you leave the extra petals on the ground, they will decompose and enrich the soil. Lucky you to have inherited such a great plant!

  5. What a beauty! I'm so jealous because Camellias don't grow well here in zone 5. Darn, they're so lovely and yours is particularly sweet. I can see why you like to trim it.

  6. Helene,
    We only hope to have as beautiful of camellia bush as yours! That is a stunner. I'd not worry with the mess myself. We have a new on R.L. Wheeler it is making a mess with it's 5 inch flowers.

  7. Your camellia really knows how to put on a show! Love that she blooms so much she needs a touch-up in the middle of blooming! And the petals on the ground are such a romantic touch. I hope one day you'll be able to identify her.

  8. Hello Helene
    Great makeover! Although I must admit the beautiful pink petals on the ground were almost as pretty as the cleaned-up plant itself. Astrid

  9. Lovely Camellia, can't grow them here, wrong type of soil. By a strange coincidence I've just been reading an article about deadheading camellias to prolong the display. I bet they'd been reading your blog.

  10. What a beautiful camellia! That is one impressive display of flowers! I actually love the carpet of petals that camellias leave. You must be a much tidier person than me to try to sweep the petals up :)

  11. Thank you all for stopping by, my 'Grand Lady' is very dear to me and your lovely comments mean a lot to me. She will probably go on flowering for another good few weeks so she will definitely be appearing again on the Garden Blogger Blooms Day on the 15th :-)


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