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Gardening with Wanda

A common question asked of the Hall County Extension office, brought to you by Wanda Cannon

POSTED: November 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Today, readers, I have a question for you: Do you have a camellia in your garden? If the answer is "No," maybe you should ask yourself, "Why not?"

Camellias, a native of China, are a traditional favorite across Georgia and the southeastern United States. Throughout the fall and winter, camellias brighten up the landscape with beautiful vibrant colors of pink, red and white.

There are as many as 250 species of camellias. The popular fall-blooming camellia sasanqua and late winter-blooming camellia japonica are considered the two classic flower icons of the Southeast.

The sasanqua variety is known for its beauty and versatility. They vary in size, shape and color. The sasanqua varies in height from 4 to 15 feet. They bloom profusely in fall and early winter and make a striking addition to any landscape.

Some good varieties suitable to Georgia are white empress, flame and rose dawn.

The japonica camellia blooms in late winter and early spring and is considered the most famous in the southern United States. Its flowers can be up to 5 inches wide and bloom for almost two months. It is not reliably cold hardy, so it must live inside the southern "camellia belt" (Zones 7 to 9, which includes Gainesville) to thrive.

The japonica comes in a wide array of flower forms and colors, and it usually produces a large, showy flower that varies in color from red to pink to white and sometimes has multicolored stripes and specks. It can grow up to 20 feet high. Some varieties of japonicas are elegans, guilio nuccio and mathotiana alba.

These popular shrubs can be used as a border and in formation hedges in lawns and as a colorful accent in outdoor settings.

If maintained properly, camellias are easy to grow and can tolerate urban conditions.

Given a well-chosen site, camellias are exceptionally care-free plants. Camellias prefer light shade and a slightly acidic soil, very similar to conditions that azaleas and rhododendrons prefer.

They will do well in full sun, provided they have adequate moisture and good drainage. Moderate shade does provide considerable winter protection. A planting site under tall pines and oaks, or on the north side of a building, is an excellent choice for camellias.

Camellias have been a part of the southern landscapes for almost 200 years. These lovely evergreen shrubs produce showy flowers that will color up your winter landscape and make the gardener appreciative of our Georgia climate in which they thrive.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293


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