Some childhood images can never be shaken. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners could only be served surrounded by bowls of camellias, or what my grandma called winter roses, accenting our family feast. When moving to Tennessee after growing up in Georgia I was afraid that this tradition would only remain a memory. But thanks to Dr. William Ackerman, a research horticulturist with the National Arboretum, a cold-hardy camellia collection is now readily available to deepen the link to a true southern garden.
Camellias are happiest when planted on the east or north side and given dappled sunlight. Their deep glossy evergreen leaves allow them to serve as a winter flowering hedge or a background for displaying summer collects of hosta, Japanese painted fern, and impatiens, or the fall color of chelone or anemone. The show-off look of these camellias in a winter container surrounded by Lonicera “Edmee Gold” or Heuchera “Caramel” will keep your holiday guest talking ‘til spring. And don’t forget to bring some blooms inside!
Common name: Camellia
Botanical Name: Camellia hybrids
Varieties to look for: “Ice Angel ™” series, “Winter’s Fire”, “Winter’s Interlude”, “Winter’s Joy”, “Winter’s Rose”, “Winter’s Charm”, Pink Icicle; “April Remembered” is fast growing and long blooming.
Blooming period: Fall through spring, depending on the variety
Type: Evergreen Shrub
Size: varieties range from 4 feet to 8 feet
Exposure: Light shade and protection from winter wind; Cold hardy to zone 6.
Keys to success
When to plant: Spring is best or Fall with extra winter protection
Soil: Moist, well-drained acid soil; keep mulched year-round
Watering: Camellias are not drought tolerant so keep watered during the summer until established
When to prune: Immediately after blooming
When to fertilize: Spring or Fall
Suggestions for Your Landscape: container planting; hedge row; foundation planting
Locally you can find Camellias that will grow in our zone 6 at Moore and Moore Garden Center, Riverbend Nursery, Bates Nursery, Hewitt's Garden Center, and John Deere Garden Center.