Camellias blooming in colder months

WITH the recent very chilly mornings and nights, but mostly beautifully sunny days, most gardens are looking bright and colourful at present, inviting their owners to get out and enjoy them.

A delightful contributor at this time is the camellia, with its wonderful range of colours and forms, and as with so many plants, each year seems to add more varieties.

The first on the scene are the hardy C. sasanqua family. They grow well in sun or semi-shade, and make excellent tub or garden specimens with their relatively slender growth and dense foliage providing year-round greenery and a good backdrop for their bright flowers with prominent stamens.

As their flowers finish around this time, they usually put on a spurt of growth, so to ensure they are healthy, give them a sprinkling of their special fertiliser.

Yates Dynamic Lifter Advanced for Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons is a good one.

The very popular C. japonicas follow on now, and these all-time favourites produce a very broad range of flowers from singles and semi-doubles to anemone, peony, and rose forms as well as the perfection of the formal doubles.

Early to mid-season flowering is probably the best for our climate due to the warmer days arriving usually around late August, when new growth forming can cause some disruption to the plant's ability to produce its beautiful flowers.

Japonicas are suitable for both garden and tub culture, preferring partial shade and filtered sunlight, and it is of course advisable to use top quality soil in your container for best results.

In the garden, they require well-drained friable soil containing organic material, so the addition of well-rotted compost or manure mixed in would certainly be a benefit. Slightly acid soil suits these plants, and if you have a soil tester available, between about 5.5 to 6.5 (just below neutral) is ideal.

The application of mulch will help keep the roots cool both in tubs and garden situations.

If you grow camellias in containers, ensure they are watered as necessary but do not leave the pots standing in water.

This could be a good time to select the position you would like to grow your camellias, and they should be in garden centres now.

With the popular Queensland Garden Expo coming up on the weekend of July 8-10 at the Nambour Showgrounds, gardeners will find a wonderful range of these shrubs available there, together with specialists to advise you.

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