Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Camellias - for a change.

These flowers will be recognisable to most readers, at least in terms of their size. No microscopic flowers to day, I promise. They are all Camellias - mostly are in a group known as "Williamsii hybrids". One was bred in Australia, by Professor Waterhouse. There are two exceptions, which are old European varieties of Camellia japonica.

The first of these old varieties is known as "roma risorta". It is a lovely flower in "formal double" shape, with red flecks over a pale pink background. Unlike some plants with variegated flowers, this plant is a lovely healthy plant.
The second "old" variety is "Dona Herzilia de Freitas Magalhaes". Please do not dispute the name, it is so frequently misspelled that I can do no better than refer to the checklist of Camellia varietal names from the International Camellia Society. It is NOT "Donna Hertzilia.... " OK?

This Camellia is a Robertson special, because, when grown in normal soil, it is a dull red plant. When grown in Robertson's rich red basalt soil, the plant fades to purple, as it ages. This is apparently because of the low pH readings of the soil here (highly acidic soil). From the first spring season in which I lived in Robertson I wanted to grow this plant, for it can become truly spectacular. Now I have smallish plant established. I have to decide in a few weeks if I need to transplant this and many other Camellias, for when I first planted them I had very little protected garden space, so I planted them at the spacings I would have used in my former garden, in Canberra. But Camellias grow far more strongly here in Robertson than they ever would in Canberra. So, my plants are too close together, and too close to the house.
The next plant is one of which I am no longer sure of the true name. I believe it to be the species Camellia saluensis. If it is correctly named, then it is the parent of an important group of hybrid Camellias known as "Williamsii hybrids". That is an old phrase, which according to newer nomenclature rules ought not be used, as the name "Williamsii" comes not from a plant, but from the person who owned the plants which were hybridised - Camellia japonica and Camellia saluensis.

That was an important cross, for the Saluensis parent plant brought a degree of hardiness which helped growers overcome a limiting factor of lack of cold tolerance in the original Camellia japonica plants. It also helped add a particular silver/pink tone into many of the resultant hybrids. So, this plant was responsible for a "colour break" in Camellias, introducing a delicacy in the range of pink and lilac-pink shades which the true "Japonicas" did not include.

This next flower is Camellia "Brian", which according to the books, is a Williamsii x reticulata hybrid Camellia. It is one of my favourites, showing that elusive lilac pink shade of which I have just written. Another feature of the Williamsii hybrids (which I like) is that as the flowers age, they drop from the plant. So you always have a clean plant, without old, dead flowers hanging on the bush. And now for an oddity, which is Camellia "Jamie", which is classed as a Williamsii hybrid, because it was found as a chance seedling growing under Dr Waterhouse's original plant of Camellia saluensis. Its pollen parent is not known. However, coming from Camellia saluensis, it is classed amongst the Williamsii hybrids.

It is a totally atypical Williamsii hybrid, however, for the reason you can see - it is a pure scarlet red. A most amazing plant - and not carrying any of the typical delicate pink shades of which I have just written. Its foliage is fine, and slightly "toothed" in a manner typical of the Williamsii hybrids.
The main known fact about this plant is its historical provenance. It was bred in Professor Waterhouse's garden, Eryldene, in Gordon, in the northern suburbs of Sydney. It was named by Professor Waterhouse himself for one of his grandchildren. Professor Waterhouse founded the Camellia Grove Nursery, originally at St Ives, from where I bought this particular plant. It hardly gets more direct than that, does it?


Mosura said...

Some nice examples. The only Camellia in my life is C. sinensis I make an infusion with the green leaves, mix it with the juice of Citrus x limon, chill it and drink about a litre a day.

Denis Wilson said...

Ah, Mosura.
I detect the sharp mind of a Morning Person. Being that clever at 6:58am does not seem natural, to me. For me, the day is barely started at 9:45am, because I sat down to write that story at 11:52 pm last night, and collapsed into bed at 3:00am. And you start being "clever" with my stuff at 6:58?
It does not seem natural to me.
I will refrain from suggesting that your wit has been sharpened by your self-declared habit of imbibing certain "substances" (caffeine) - or is it the essence of Lemon?
I actually love Camellias, as well as Peonies, and Old-fashioned Roses, as well as native Ground Orchids, and birds, and insects, and, and, and....
Thanks for your witty contribution.