Writing a blog about landscaping in Late Winter/Early Spring is hard. Nothing seems to strike inspiration as our surrounding landscape seems to be dreary, dreary drab, drab. But then suddenly; you’re driving down the road or taking a walk and some big beautiful green-leafed shrub catches your eye. A shrub with flowers so big and formed so perfectly they appear fake or well, made of frosting. What shrub is this you exclaim, demanding to know what beauty we should behold here in the dead of winter of South Carolina. Such a specimen is regarded as the Camellia.
Camellias come in two forms the Sasanqua or shrub form and the Japonica, small tree. Both species originated from Japan and seem to have a knack for blooming when other garden species are spent. A Sasanqua grows more wide then tall, is considered a shrub and has a smaller leaf structure and blooms from around Thanksgiving time up to January. The Japonica is considered a small tree with a larger leaf structure and most in the South Carolina area bloom from January to March. Both are fabulous but for the sake this post we’ll focus on the Japonica.
The Camellia Japonica grows about 6 to 10 feet tall and wide, though some varieties have the possibility of getting up to 20 feet. The leaves are deep evergreen that can get up to about 4 inches in length. Flower colors can be anything from white, pink, peach, red or a combination and some varieties can look almost identical to the dearly loved peonies of the North. While the Sasanqua can tolerate a partial shade/partial sun atmosphere, the Japonica needs full to partial shade to survive. Which makes it a perfect candidate for those of suffering under extreme tree canopies.
Japonicas are very slow growers and take quite a while to get established. They require constantly moist soil and the lack of water provided to them in the summer will result in less blooms for you during their prime season. Once established they have very few pests/problems and can handle more sun. I will warn you that if you’re shopping for a Japonica be ready to pay more than expected. Because of their slow growth habit, I probably wouldn’t suggest purchasing/planting anything below a 7-gallon specimen (2-4ft tall) and because they’ve taken so long to reach this height at a nursery they won’t be cheap. But boy oh boy are they ever worth it, once you plant it as a specimen in your garden, you won’t live to regret it…scout’s honor.