Camellia Camellia

I am staying with my sister on the leafy North Shore of Sydney. She has a lovely federation house styled house. She will be the first to admit the garden does not get quite the attention it should but at this time of year it doesn’t really matter because the garden is full of fabulous camellia bushes that were there when she and her husband purchased the property and they flower beautifully every single year. You can walk outside and pick literally bunched of camellias in every stage of bloom… what a treat!

Camellia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. They are found in eastern and southern Asia, from the Himalayas east to Japan and Indonesia. There is controversy over the exact number of species with more being identified daily…but more on that later.

As my sister will attest, Camellias are right at the top of the list of the world’s best flowering plants. As Don Burke says (and he’d know), they are hardy and disease resistant, most varieties have attractive, glossy green foliage, and they put on their fabulous flower display in the cooler months of the year when the rest of the garden often looks dull and bare.

Camellia flowers range in colour from pure white, through pink, to deepest red. My extra favourite are the pinks and whites with a touch of pink.There are miniature, small, medium, medium large, large and very large sizes in single, semi-double, anemone form, peony form, and formal double. So much choice.

Most of the thousands of cultivars now available have been bred from three species: Camellia japonica, C. sasanqua and C. reticulata. Japonicas and reticulatas are best for semi-shaded positions. Sasanquas will take more sun, and can be used as hedging plants. A clipped camellia hedge – does it get any better?

And for those of you who don’t have a garden – it does indeed get better….camellias are among the best flowering pot plants in the whole world.

The go to place for all things camellia is Camellias Australia Incorporated which was established in 1952 as the Australian Camellia Research Society “to encourage investigation and research into matters concerning the genus Camellia, to collect information and publish the findings, and by appropriate means to make the genus, its species, hybrids and cultivars known and appreciated throughout Australia.”

You could get lost on their site – I certainly did  when I came upon their recent blog Raiders of the Lost Camellias which documents the work of Dr George Orel and Mr Tony Curry who have undertaken 17 expeditions to Vietnam, 9 to China and 3 to Japan to locate, identify, describe and introduce new Camellia species to science. Kind of like Harrison Ford with a green thumb and an eye for botanical treasures.

My wrap today features some beautiful camellia pink wrapping paper, with copper dots and a matching copper ribbon all topped off with a copper mesh bow. But the hero is the camellia and may there be many more of them.

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