Thursday, October 20, 2011

happy birthday to me

Camellia, one of my favorite flowers, blooms each year on my birthday. There is a hedge of Sasanqua Camellias planted along the back side of my house, which I started from cuttings while a student at the University of Georgia in Athens. Camellia’s aren’t thought of as particularly cold hardy (especially Sasanquas); but these have survived several cold Nashville winters and now stand over 5’ tall.

Sasanqua Camellias bloom earlier and are more demure in flower and leaf size than their cousin, the hardier Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica). Another cousin, the Tea Camellia (Camellia sinensis) is not nearly as showy as the other species. But its value lies in creating more cold-hardy crosses, and it is the plant from which tea is made!

The Camellia’s blush white to deep red flower stands out well against its dark evergreen foliage. And while I have planted specimens of this shrub for a few clients, I prefer to see them in groupings. My favorite grouping is at the Founder’s Memorial Garden at the University of Georgia, where Camellia hedges create walls of lush foliage and colorful blooms.

Between my love of UGA’s campus and my reverence for cold-weather blooms, I was destined to adore this shrub. Camellia’s are much more versatile and low maintenance than many realize. For a safe bet on cold hardiness, select a Camellia variety with ‘winter’, ‘snow’, or ‘ice’ in the name. Most prefer some shade and moist, well-draining, slightly acidic soil.

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