Archive for Camellia x ‘Elaine Lee’

Fall-blooming Camellias Part 1

Posted in evergreen, Fall, Fall Color, Shade Shrubs with tags , , , , on December 8, 2010 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

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  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 (Unknown Ackerman Hybrid)

From 1992 to 1997, I earned two Certificates in Ornamental Plants from Longwood Gardens.  Of all the horticultural classes I have taken, these are the best, and I still use the course books as my primary plant reference.  As I worked my way through the 18 required courses from bulbs to perennials to shrubs to vines, I made a mental life list of the plants I wanted in my garden.  Some I added immediately, but others were stored away to be added in the future as I discovered them randomly at the nurseries I visited.  This year, fall-blooming hardy camellias rose to the top of the list.

Camellia oleifera at Carolyn's Shade GardensCamellia oleifera

Bark on Camellia oleifera grown as tree (Cresson garden)

Actually, my flirtation with fall-blooming camellias began about 10 years ago during a tour of the Morris Arboretum when I was given a tiny seedling of their Camellia oleifera (two photos above), which was a cutting of the original and famous ‘Lu Shan Snow’ at the U.S. National Arboretum.  It has grown into quite a large shrub with beautiful cinnamon-colored bark, glossy dark evergreen leaves, and copious single white flowers from late October into December.  It is also completely cold hardy, but not resistant to deer who dined on it voraciously.  There were to be no more camellias in my future until I freed up a space for them inside my deer fence.

fall-blooming camellia 'Winter's Darling' at Carolyn's Shade GardensCamellia x (Unknown Ackerman Hybrid)

This spring I removed several large and ailing boxwoods from a sheltered spot by my patio and simultaneously found a source for specimen camellias—it was a “perfect storm” for my venture into the fall-blooming camellia world.

fall-blooming camellia 'Elaine Lee' at Carolyn's Shade GardensCamellia x ‘Elaine Lee’

I purchased three gorgeous plants.  The first, Camellia x ‘Elaine Lee’ (photos above and bottom), has semi-double white flowers that bloom from November sporadically through January.  It has an upright form with an average growth rate to 5 feet.  The second, Camellia x ‘Winter’s Darling’ (photo below), has miniature, anemone-form deep cerise pink flowers that start at the end of October and continue through December.  It has a moderately upright habit and grows slowly to 3 to 5 feet.  The third is an Ackerman hybrid camellia (photos top, above, and bottom), but I am not sure which cultivar.  It has semi-double deep pink flowers.  All three have beautiful glossy dark evergreen leaves.

Camellia x ‘Winter’s Darling’

These hardy fall-blooming camellias, along with many others, were developed by Dr. William Ackerman at the U.S. National Arboretum by crossing C. oleifera with more ornamental forms to produce superior plants.  They are truly hardy in the mid-Atlantic, but should be sited to protect them from winter sun and our winter winds, which come from the northwest, and mulched in winter.  They prefer a well-drained site in part shade.

fall-blooming camellia 'Elaine Lee' at Carolyn's Shade GardensCamellia x ‘Elaine Lee’

For more information on Dr. Ackerman’s hybrids, read his article “Camellias for Cold Climates”.  For more information on camellias, go to the International Camellia Society’s website.  Stay tuned for my next camellia post which will highlight photographs from my recent visit to a private collection of over 60 camellias.

fall-blooming camellia 'Winter's Darling' at Carolyn's Shade GardensCamellia x (Unknown Ackerman Hybrid)

The U.S. National Arboretum, which is part of the USDA, is the source for many of the best plant breeding programs in the U.S.  It also maintains national collections of plants.  The arboretum is currently planning to deaccession its Azalea and Boxwood Collections as well as part of the Perennial Collection.  In the case of the Azalea Collection, although budget concerns were mentioned, one of the reasons given was that it attracted too many visitors. I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine this happening in the U.K.  If you would like to find out more about this amazing azalea collection and the efforts to save it, go to the Save the Azaleas website.


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