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Cannon: Camellias and Lenten roses
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What information do you have about camellias and Lenten roses?

Here in the South during the winter, we can always rely on two flower show stoppers — the camellia and the Lenten rose (or as some call it, the hellebore).

Camellias are a traditional favorite across the Southeast. There are two classic flower icons, the popular fall blooming Sasanqua and the late winter blooming Japonica. With attractive fall and winter flowers, glossy leaves and interesting growing habits, camellias are a must for a Southeastern garden.

Sasanqua camellias can vary in size, shape and color. Their heights can reach between 4 feet to 15 feet, depending on the variety. Their prolific blooms in the fall and early winter make a striking addition to any landscape. They are also a great container plant, and colors range from white to a rosy pink to red.

Some varieties suitable to Georgia are the "white empress," "flame" and "rose dawn." February or March is a perfect time to prune and shape your Sasanqua Camellia. They also prefer a moderately shaded, well drained area. Plant them high with the root ball about 2 inches above the soil line. An excellent planting site for the camellia would be under tall pines and oaks, or on the north side of a building.

The Japonica camellia blooms in late winter and produces a showy bloom that varies from white to pink to red and some can even have a multi-colored stripe with specks. They can grow to 20 feet and bloom for about 2 months before tapering off in early spring. Prune it April through June.

Another winter show stopper is the Lenten rose. It gets its name from its growing season, which is usually around Lent. Although it is not a rose, this flower will push up through the coldest of months and spray your garden with an array of subtle colors. The Lenten rose comes in white, along with a dark purple or slate and pink.

The Lenten rose is an evergreen perennial and has a spreading effect in your garden. They are deer tolerant and rarely need to be fertilized, if at all. Their life span is long and they will disperse and drop seeds from the center of the flower, which makes it an excellent plant for transplanting (do that in the fall) and sharing with your neighbors. Once new foliage emerges, cut away any tattered foliage from the last year.

These wonderful winter bloomers have been around for hundreds of years. They are hardy and will lift your spirits during our chilly winter days.

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.