The fall-blooming camellias are flowering in my garden, pictured above is ‘Winter’s Joy’. I planted this camellia last fall, and it bloomed all through our mild winter. This year it is once again loaded with buds and began blooming in October.
For the past two falls, I have written posts on fall-blooming camellias, shrubs that have quickly become favorites in my garden. Who can resist their tough nature, glossy, evergreen leaves, tidy habit, and, best of all, large, elegant flowers from September through December? To read my posts, click Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.
I only have four fall-blooming camellias in my garden: the two pictured above plus ‘Elaine Lee’ and ‘Winter’s Darling’. My desire to showcase some new varieties on my blog gave me a great excuse to venture forth and visit the camellia collections of two great gardeners, both located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. I spent two glorious afternoons obsessing on camellias with Charles Cresson, whose garden you have visited many times on my blog, and with Keith Robertshaw, a diehard camellia collector and one of my nursery customers.
The weird weather patterns we have been experiencing have had one good result, camellias are blooming early this year with an abundance of flowers. I usually find it very difficult to photograph a full camellia shrub. When I step back far enough to get the whole bush in the photo, the flowers lose their impact even though they look great in person. That was not a problem on my recent trip when cultivars like ‘Snow Flurry’ were bursting with flowers as you can see in the above photo.
‘Snow Flurry’ is the earliest to flower of the cold hardy fall-blooming camellias selected by William Ackerman at the US National Arboretum in Washington, DC. It is at the top of the list for additions to my garden.
‘Autumn Spirit’ is another cold hardy camellia that blooms early and has produced a plethora of flowers this year. Early bloomers are desirable because they are guaranteed to bloom even if we have an early winter that freezes the buds on the late bloomers.
‘Autumn Spirit’ was selected by the North Carolina nursery Camellia Forest for its intense color, early bloom, and cold hardiness.
I have featured all four of the camellias shown above in my previous posts. However, my visits to the Robertshaw and Cresson gardens did yield seven new cold hardy camellias that I haven’t seen before. If you combine these with the approximately 20 cultivars profiled in my 2010 and 2011 posts, you will have a pretty comprehensive reference library of camellias suitable for the mid-Atlantic area of the US. Here are the new candidates:
‘Survivor’ is another Camellia Forest introduction producing an abundance of single white flowers in early fall. If you are in an area north of the mid-Atlantic, you might want to try this very cold hardy camellia which survived -9° F (-22.8° C) in the Camellia Forest Nursery garden.
Another camellia in addition to ‘Survivor’ for gardeners who prefer single flowers, ‘Long Island Pink’ is also valued for its large highly polished leaves. Although it is a cultivar of C. sasanqua, which is generally considered tender, ‘Long Island Pink’ was selected for cold hardiness from a Long Island, NY, garden.
I am cheating by putting this camellia in the post because you can’t buy it. It was an Ackerman seedling given to Charles Cresson but never introduced to the trade. The flowers are huge, gorgeous, and pure white. I think we need to lobby to have it named!
The Ackerman hybrid ‘Winter’s Rose’ is unusual. It is a semi-dwarf that grows very slowly and densely with small leaves and flowers, making a great patio plant. If you don’t have much room, this is the camellia for you.
‘Winter Rose’ has an abundance of small delicate shell pink flowers from mid-October to early December. Charles Cresson pointed out that although the plant is exceedingly hardy, the flowers freeze easily.
‘Winter’s Fire’ was present in both gardens and is the most intriguing camellia that I saw during my visits. The flower color is very unusual, a beautiful mix of red, pink, and coral with contrasting white splotches. While Keith and Charles both stated that the white was caused by a non-harmful virus and both plants displayed this coloring, I could find no mention of this on the internet.
[Thanks to reader Alisa Brown for answering my question about ‘Winter’s Fire’. Variegation in camellias caused by a virus is not considered part of the official description of the flower. You can read more about this by clicking here.]
William Ackerman, who selected ‘Winter’s Fire’, characterizes it as having “spreading growth with a weeping habit.” In the Robertshaw garden, it was growing like a groundcover. This photo is taken from above. I would love to try it cascading over a wall.
This is one corner of the Cresson garden showing ‘Snow Flurry’ on the left and the unnamed white Ackerman plant on the top right intermingled with several other large camellias. Though it may be hard at first to get used to such big gorgeous flowers in November, as you can see they make for a beautiful fall landscape.
My annual fall camellia hunt is over with seven new specimens bagged. Now I have a year to determine where I will continue my search next fall. If you know of any local public or private gardens showcasing camellias please let me know.
Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall. Thanks for a great year. See you in spring 2013.
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