2012 Fall-blooming Camellias

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Camellia x 'Winter's Joy'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.

'Winter's Snowman'‘Winter’s Snowman’ was planted in spring 2011 in dense shade and bloomed sparsely last fall.  This year it is well established and has been covered with flowers since October.

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.

Camellia x 'Snow Flurry'‘Snow Flurry’, which I have shown you before in the Cresson garden, is having a banner year this year.

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.

Camellia x 'Snow Flurry'‘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.


Camellia x 'Autumn Spirit'‘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.


Camellia x 'Autumn Spirit'‘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:

Camellia x 'Survivor'‘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.


Camellia x 'Long Island Pink'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.


Camellia x 'Polar Ice'‘Polar Ice’ is a cold hardy Ackerman hybrid with anemone form flowers blooming in November and December.


Camellia x 'Ashton's Ballet' ‘Ashton’s Ballet’ is an Ackerman hybrid with rose form double flowers blooming in November and December.  It has a compact form and makes a beautiful garden specimen.


Camellia x (Ackerman seedling)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! 


Camellia x 'Winter's Rose'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.


Camellia x 'Winter's Rose'‘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.


Camellia x 'Winter's Rose' ‘Winter’s Rose’ seems to be the favorite among commenters so I thought I would add another photo.


Camellia x 'Winter's Fire'‘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.]

Camellia x 'Winter's Fire'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.


Camellias in Cresson gardenThis 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.



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54 Responses to “2012 Fall-blooming Camellias”

  1. Spectacular but definitely not hardy here… it must be wonderful being able to grow these amazing shrubs! Larry

  2. There is a historic camellia greenhouse at the Lyman Estate, Waltham MA which has many large old specimens which were not bred for cold weather.

    Thank you for all of your posts about hardy camellias. I planted Winter’s Joy, Ashton’s Ballet and Snow Flurry this year. For Spring blooming I also planted April Remembered which is covered with large buds even now which I fear will get frozen if I don’t properly cover them with polypropylene coverings that breathe. I was surprised to have blossoms during their most tender first year in the ground.

    • Rosemary, The spring blooming camellias are always covered with buds now. I have had ‘April Blush’ for many years and never had problems with the buds freezing. I guess it would depend what zone you are in but 7a or 6b should be fine. Carolyn

  3. Winter Rose is my favorite, such a soft color. I am glad you showed the full shrubs on site. It says so much more about the plant itself. You must have had a glorious afternoon, the camellias are gorgeous.

    • Donna, ‘Winter Rose’s’ flowers are quite beautiful when they open, but they fade to a salmon color that I am not quite as fond of. I am very intrigued, however, by the size of the plant because it will fit in smaller gardens. Many camellias get quite large. Dr. Ackerman doesn’t give ultimate sizes in his description of the plants, but some of the specimens at the Cresson garden are huge. Carolyn

  4. Carolyn these are just amazing from foliage to flower…I especially love the Winter Rose with that blush pink…too bad I cannot grow them

  5. Murray Callahan Says:

    I got my camellia, which is in full flower now,in a rather interesting way – my sister-in-law works in the movies as a greensman – a set dresser dealing with all horticultural aspects of a film – and she was working locally. She had some plants left over and I was the happy recipient of this particular plant which I’ve had for about 4 years now. The only problem is I don’t know which variety it is – how does one tell? it’s a darker pink double one but other than that I really can’t say.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog – I am lucky enough to live close enough to you to be able to come to your sales and have done on several occasions.

    • Murray, I am so glad you like the blog. If your camellia has lasted four years it is obviously one of the cold hardy varieties. There are many pink doubles though. William Ackerman has written a book called

        Growing Camellias in Cold Climates

      . Carolyn

  6. I am in zone 6a and so far so good for growing the most cold-hardy camellias. Ackerman’s book is a resource and Carolyn’s blog is an inspiration. I am growing them in very sheltered locations by my house where they won’t suffer from early morning light to crack them in the cold. Until they have a few years of growth, I intend to wrap them during the coldest months with polypropylene cloth which allows air and water in but insulates from temperature extremes. I should mention that when I opened the delivery box containing the little shrubs, the peppery aroma and the bright shiny leaves impressed me through every sense.

    • Rosemary, You sound like a devoted camellia fan. I just mentioned the Ackerman book to another commenter but I have not read it. Cold hardy camellias are supposed to be good in zone 6 but I wouldn’t discourage you from taking the precautions you mention because then something is sure to happen. Winter sun also burns camellia leaves. Carolyn

  7. Charles Cresson’s camellia is superb. How do we go about getting him to strike cuttings “for a few of your friends”? Winter Rose breaks my heart.

  8. In the first pic, Winter’s Joy’, could you tell me about the interesting hosta?

  9. Very beautiful, especially the pink varieties! Autumn Spirit is gorgeous. I love my camellias, they are still on the small side but I get more blooms every year. In California they won’t bloom for a couple more months.

    • Jeannine, I would like to add ‘Autumn Spirit’ to my garden. I don’t know anything about camellias in California, but here they are fall-blooming in October through December or spring-blooming in March and April. I have some beautiful spring bloomers but I don’t focus on them as much because so much is going on then. Carolyn

  10. You have chosen some beautful examples; I may be mistaken but the cultivars you have in the States seem better than in Europe where I often find the flowers ugly and when they fall it is an entire flower rather than petal by petal giving the impression that the plants are covered with plastic flowers. None of the ones you’ve shown look like plastic! Christina

  11. Paula Burns Says:

    Hi Carolyn:) Haverford College has a pretty single camellia that’s been in full bloom for several weeks and was still going strong last week. A friend in Ardmore has a white one she got in Oregon a year ago. Enjoy! Paula

  12. What fabulous Camellias! I just went on a search for new ones this weekend! I can’t wait to plant more in the garden!

    • Randy, It looks like you may live in the South where the camellia choices are endless because you don’t have to worry about cold hardiness. Here in the mid-Atlantic we are limited to the Ackerman hybrids and similarly cold hardy varieties selected by Camellia Forest and others. Carolyn

  13. Carolyn – I loved the ‘snow’ falling across the screen as I read this blog post. The falling snow was just the encouragement I needed to go outside and finish raking up (and shredding) the last of the leaf fall using Michael’s amazing method!

  14. Carolyn, I have always assumed that the autumn flowering camellias weren’t hardy, what a fantastic selection you have! I’m really taken with your Snow Flurry, will have to see if I can find it over here. Thank you for opening my eyes!

  15. Oh, I love that Winter’s Rose! I usually see red, hot pink, or white camellias, but that soft pink is just beautiful. I have noticed that a lot of camellia blooms seem to look “in” toward the bush, thus the bush is hard to photograph and have it look as beautiful as in person. But the bush shot of Snow Flurry is outstanding.

    • Holley, I think you are right, the flowers don’t all face the same way. When you walk around the plant you see them all, but a photo from one direction doesn’t get them all and they look sparse. I am going to post another photo of ‘Winter’s Rose’ since it is the hands down favorite. Carolyn

  16. What BEAUTIFUL colours!! So delicate!

    • Barbie, Not sure why but your comments are going to spam. This rarely happens on WordPress so I am perplexed. Since you are on the opposite season in South Africa, you will have to imaginr the delicate colors against the dark glossy evergreen leaves when the rest of the garden is quickly fading—very magical. Carolyn

  17. These are all so beautiful It would be hard to say which is most beautiful! I have a few camellias. The old ones that were here when we came in 1985 are huge and bloom profusely. More recent additions have some catching-up to do! So far they are not blooming so much, and I was thinking their shady location could be the reason. But maybe they just need to mature.

  18. I know exactly what you mean about photographing the whole shrub. I have been trying to get a picture of ‘Autumn Rocket’ which is white, growing against a white house, and all I can get are shots of the flowers.

    (BTW, I like the snow falling from your blog onto the camellias,)

  19. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Camellia with as many flowers as your Snow Flurry! Very impressive. It was also encouraging to hear that although you initially had poor flower production in deep shade with Winters Snowman, once it was established it bloomed well.

    • Karen, The ‘Snow Flurry’ pictured is in the Cresson garden. Although it is in an open area, the camellias behind and to the right of it are in very shady locations and are covered with flowers. At the Robertshaw garden, there was a ‘Winter’s Interlude’ literally in the dark under a conifer and it had flowers all over it. Camellias are indeed a shade plant. Carolyn

  20. I do miss growing Camellias. They were always reliable in our climate during the fall and winter months. I had one, whose name escapes me, that used to bloom each December, through the new year. The rest of the garden looked ragged, but I could always count on its blooms. Your pink Winter’s Rose is truly a beauty. So delicate, and almost reminiscent of a pink blushed gardenia bloom. Snow Flurry though certainly lives up to its name. I’ve never seen so many flowers on a Camellia!

    • Clare, I was trying to figure out what it is about the ‘Winter’s Rose’ flowers that makes them so appealing, and I think you got it: they look like blush gardenias. The plant itself is quite cute, small all over with a great habit. Carolyn

  21. Winter rose is my favourite too. I prune my camellias every year due to limited space. I’m guessing that you’re not supposed to prune them ?

    • Bag, I planted my first camellias in Spring 2010 and have been on a quest to introduce them to other gardeners since then. Gardeners in the mid-Atlantic US generally do not know they can grow them. My camellias have not been around long enough to need pruning so I haven’t looked into it. I will ask Charles about pruning. Carolyn

  22. Carolyn, I would be happy to have any one of those early flowering Camellias in our garden. I suspect that more often than not most of us are attracted to the double flowering forms of these plants yet if we stand back a little we can soon become fans of the single types Mind you, Polar Ice which you show I really like, I suppose its sort of semi double. b-a-g, talking of pruning Camellias, we had to have a tree removed a few weeks ago and in doing so it did a helluva job of pruning a red flowering Camellia which this Spring flowered profusely for the first time. I did a bit of research and it appears Camellias once mature enough lend themselves very well to pruning, some saying they can safely be pruned at any time of the year, although it would be rather daft to do so when buds are forming.

  23. Hi Carolyn, the flowers are all lovely, but my attention was also attracted by that variegated plant behind the first photo. May i know what that is?

  24. What about pot culture for us people in cold climates, I winter other tender plants in a frost free structure–Envious Ron

  25. philip russell Says:

    I live in Louisville, KY. I have a good place to plant Ahston’s Ballet or other Ackerman fall Camellia. But I need a 5 gallon or larger plant. Can any of you help me find one?

    • Philip, I would think that in Louisville you would not have to worry about cold hardiness and would have a much larger selection of camellias available locally. Mail order nurseries do not usually ship five gallon sizes but you might try Rare Find Nursery in NJ and see what they have and are willing to ship. I would also consult Camellia Forest in NC. Carolyn

  26. Mary Ann Ziemba Says:

    We lost a 50 ft blue spruce due to Hurricane Sandy and are looking for a replacement plant for our garden on the edge of Philadelphia (Upper Roxborough). The part sun/part shade corner can be rather windy which also drops the temperature. Do you think the buds on a cold hardy camellia would handle this situation? I’m thinking that a fall-blooming type would be a safer choice. The ideal choice would mature at about 5-6 feet.

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