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The Queen of Winter -
Camellia japonica



  To imagine a southern garden without a Camellia japonica is like imagining a southern lady without a southern drawl.  It just does not seem proper or realistic.

  In old southern gardens you can find Camellias as large as small trees. They are very hardy in our area and only the very coldest of winters have left their marks on this standard of the southern garden. 

A Camellia Japonica plant at Kathy’s home.

Special photo

  Camellia japonicas usually have large flowers up to 6 inches in diameter and bloom from November to late March. C. japonicas need shade throughout the summer months and thrive in high light in winter.  The blooms will be more profuse when there is plenty of light, but little direct sun. This is one of the reasons that you will see these as very large specimens under tall pines throughout the deep south.

  Camellias have shallow roots and must be planted in rich soil to attain their best leaf color and growth. While they are slow growers, adequate planting techniques, supplemental water during droughts and a little fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season (March) will produce a relatively good growth speed and lots of beautiful flowers. Keep them mulched with about 3 inches of pine straw.   Camellia japonica needs little pruning if planted in a place where it can ultimately reach 10 - 15 feet.  Plant it well, nurture it a little and just let it grow.

  Unfortunately, I am at the age where I cannot wait too long to see a magnificent Camellia in my garden, so I am looking for some large specimens. I have smaller ones that I enjoy immensely. In the landscape I prefer to plant at least a 3-gallon size specimen - the survival those first years is best with this size.

   Camellia sasanquas grow faster and bloom earlier in the fall through the early winter season.  They will enjoy far more sunny areas, but do need adequate fertile soil and water during drought. While I love these plants, it is the C. Japonica that is truly the Queen of Winter with it very large blossoms.

  Here are just a few cultivars that you might consider in your garden.  These are quite hardy here.

  ‘Adolphe Audusson’ - midseason; very large; red. ‘Betty Sheffield Supreme’ - late; large; red.   ‘Berenice Boddy' - midseason; medium; light pink.

  ‘Daikagura’ - Early-late; large; rose-red. Debutante' - Early-midseason; medium-large, pink.

  ‘Governor Mouton’ -  Mid-late season;  large semi-double petal blooms, red with white      marble variegation. ‘Kramer's Supreme’ - Midseason; very large; red.   ‘Kumasaka’ - Midseason-late; medium-large; pink. ‘Lady Clare’ - Midseason-late; large; dark pink; above-average cold hardiness. ‘Magnoliaeflora’ - Midseason; medium; pale-pink. ‘Mathotiana’ - Midseason-late; very large; crimson. ‘Guilio Nuccio’ - Midseason; very large; rose. Nuccio's Gem' - Midseason; medium-large, white. ‘Pink Perfection’ - Early; large; pink. ‘R.L. Wheeler’ - Late; large; red. ‘Rev. John G. Drayton’ - Late; semi-double; carmine-rose

  Massee Lane Gardens in Fort Valley is the headquarters of The American Camellia Society.  During the month of February and early March, which is the best time to view the camellia blossoms, the gardens are open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. You can also purchase camellias at the gardens. The gardens are located on Georgia Highway 49 between Fort Valley and Marshallville. Exit 149 from I-75 at Byron to travel south on Georgia Highway 49 or leave I-75 at Exit 135 in Perry to follow Georgia Highway 127 to Marshallville. From Marshallville follow Georgia 49 north three miles to the gardens. The gardens are five miles south of Fort Valley.



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