Tag Archives: Jury camellias

A blight upon your camellias

I married in to a camellia family. Long before the Jury name ever became associated with magnolias, it was known both in New Zealand and overseas for camellias. That is because there were two brothers working independently on camellias in the previous generation.

Les Jury (known here as Uncle Les, for obvious reasons) was the better known and some of his cultivars are classics in the camellia world – Anticipation, Debbie and Jury’s Yellow to name just three. Not far behind was Felix Jury who created Water Lily, Dream Boat, Rose Bouquet and many others.

Encouraged by his father and his uncle, my Mark was following suit. They were heady days and camellias ranked second only to roses in volume of plant sales in New Zealand. Both Mark and I remember the Day of Doom. Mark received an unannounced visit from senior members of the local Camellia Society bringing him the bad news that camellia petal blight had been found in Wellington. It took quite a while for the implications to sink in for me but Mark knew instantly what it meant and that was the day he stopped camellia breeding. Only now, more than twenty years down the track, is he starting to return to it as the picture has become clearer.

From these slightly blemished blooms...

From these slightly blemished blooms…

Camellia petal blight is endemic to China and Japan and has long been a problem on the west coast of the USA. More recently, it has struck the UK and Europe though apparently Australia is still free from it. A plant can’t carry it. It is transmitted on the flower or in the soil. Even back when it was first found in this country, standard practice was to ensure that all plants being shipped in or out of New Zealand were stripped of all flower buds and had their roots washed clean. It is quite possible that it entered this country inadvertently in a corsage somebody failed to discard safely or some similar incident. The discovery of infected blooms in Wellington Botanic Gardens and in two locations in the Hutt (if my memory serves me right) was hardly painted apple moth or Queensland fruit fly territory but its impact has certainly been very disappointing.

... to this in two short days

… to this in two short days

It is a fungus – Ciborinia camelliae, to be precise and the spore are dispersed through the air. The problem in this country is that the camellia is so ubiquitous and the distances from host plant to next potential host so short that the disease spread rapidly. For the same reason, you can’t eradicate it because you will just get reinfected. So we have learned to live with it.

We have always had botrytis which turns blooms dark brown but petal blight is much more rampant. What may be light brown speck on a bloom one day can show as riddled as the pox the following day and pale mush the day after. And it usually hangs on the plant, which is the worst aspect of all because blighted blooms look awful. A lot of modern breeding has been to get camellias that are self grooming – in other words they fall when finished. But not the blighted blooms.

If you want to check that you have it, flip a bloom over and peel off the calyx which holds the petals together in the centre. If it has a telltale white powdery ring inside the calyx, that is petal blight. If it is greyish black, it is botrytis.

The white ring of death - camellia petal blight

The white ring of death – camellia petal blight

Petal blight does not weaken the plant. It merely cuts the floral display. You won’t get as many blooms, though given camellias’ propensity for massive bud set, they will still out flower most other shrubs. You will probably have to do more of a clean up, maybe shake the bush as you pass and rake up the debris to keep them looking attractive. It is still a lot less than many other plants require.

Reticulata camellias (the ones with the huge blooms the size of lunch plates) tend to drop their blighted blooms because they are so heavy. And many are red which doesn’t show the brown blemishes as badly. But reticulatas are very hard to find for sale these days. Despite what some information on the internet says, we have never found petal blight on our sasanqua camelliaseither, and that is not for want of looking. As far as we are concerned they are clean.

The smaller flowered camellias with masses of shortlived blooms in succession are just as good as ever. We had a rush of blood to the head when Mark thought last week that petal blight was entirely absent from his Camellia Fairy Blush (the first camellia he ever named – a C. lutchuensis hybrid, not a sasanqua). He examined many spent blooms and finally found one with the telltale white ring. So not blight free, but unaffected in its display.

It is the bigger flowered, paler varieties that look the worst along with the ones bred for show blooms – fewer flowers but with perfect form. It has pretty well wrecked the traditions of camellia shows. Whether time and renewed efforts by plant breeders can replace these types with blight resistant options is still unknown.

Camellia Fairy Blush - not immune but the display is unaffected

Camellia Fairy Blush – not immune but the display is unaffected

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 13 July, 2012

Spring must be getting close - dwarf Narcissus Twilight is opening

Spring must be getting close – dwarf Narcissus Twilight is opening


Last week was garden bed...

Last week was garden bed…

Latest posts:
1) The Great Garden Make Over (aka renovating the rose garden). Not quick, not even that easy, but hugely satisfying.
2) They were the first narcissi to flower this season – Narcissus bulbocodium citrinus ‘Pandora’. However, others are starting to open, including the little Felix Jury hybrid ‘Twinkle’ above.
3) Grow it Yourself – tamarillos, this week. Yet another subtropical fruit, from South America again this one, that we have taken over in this country as if it were our own – even to the extent of branding it tamarillo!
4) Away from gardening and on to recipe books – 500 Tapas reviewed.

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 13 July 2012

The work in the rose garden has absorbed all my recent energies, and a good deal of Lloyd’s too. If the rain had just held off for another couple of days, it would have been finished but intermittent showers and the developing mud has driven me indoors.

Camellia Fairy Blush

Camellia Fairy Blush

Camellia Fairy Blush is looking particularly pretty in our little hedge. This was the first camellia Mark ever named – a scented, lutchuensis hybrid. Mark is not given to exaggeration or overstating matters so he was always rather deprecating about Fairy Blush. “It’s just a little single,” he would say, “but it does flower well and has reasonable scent.” Yes, it is a little single that flowers for several months on end and is as fragrant as any camellia, on a compact plant which clips very well. These days we regard it as the one that got away from us. We should probably have taken out Plant Variety Rights (a plant patent) on it. It is now a market standard in both Australia and New Zealand and it can be a little galling when nurserymen tell you how very well they have done out of your plant. Such is life. But then we have learned the hard way that even agreements and Plant Variety Rights don’t necessarily give market protection either. We would still plant Fairy Blush in our own garden and recommend it to others, even if it wasn’t our cultivar and that is a fair testimonial.

Our hedge of Camellia Fairy Blush

Our hedge of Camellia Fairy Blush

Camellia Diary number 3: July 3, 2010

Click to see all Camellia diary entries

Click on the Camellia diary logo above to see all diary entries

July may see days getting a little longer but it also tends to herald the worst of our winter weather. However as chill, grey days can be interspersed, as today and indeed, last weekend, with positively mild days when it is possible to garden comfortably and shed layers of clothing, the camellias flower on undeterred.

The sasanquas are drawing to the end of their season but Elfin Rose, who opened her first blooms at the very end of March, is still a significant patch of lolly pink and dark forest green. Three months of flowering is better than most of the other sasanquas manage. Silver Dollar also just gets better every year and is excelling with an extended flowering season. We think Silver Dollar, being lower and slower growing, would make a good hedge. Alas were it not for the wonderful shape and maturity of Mine No Yuki, it would have had the chop by now. It does not justify its place here as a flowering plant where the pristine white blooms turn to brown mush in our rains.

The ever faithful Camellia Waterlily

The japonicas are just starting – the first flowers came on good old Waterlily, one of the first camellias named here by Felix. The original plant is pretty sizeable now – maybe six metres – but the early flowers are as lovely as ever. Half sister, Softly (another saluenensis hybrid) is also showing plenty of open bloom. In the class of pale formals, Softly shows good weather resistance. We went on a magnolia tour in northern Italy a few years ago and the timing coincided with the peak of their japonica display, and what a display. We soon worked out that camellias in that climate mass flower over a much shorter period of time. Here, ours flower for much longer but without that oomph all at once.

The lovely species yuhsienensis

Compact C. drupifera, planted here with burgundy aeonium and cordyline

In the species, C.gauchowensis is looking lovely but the star this week is the compact C.drupifera. Or maybe C.yuhsienensis. It is hard to decide – all look lovely with pristine white blooms. Yuhsienensis takes a bit of grooming to stay looking its best but it is such a lovely camellia. We have a row of about 50 plants in our open ground area which we are still debating about using as a hedge. Puniceiflora continues flowering – puny flowers but still with a simple, small charm.

Alas I found the disconcerting sight of the first instance of the dreaded camellia petal blight at the very beginning of June (about June 2, from memory). It just seems to get earlier every year but it is not yet showing up badly on garden plants so I will return to the topic later when it is no longer possible to ignore it.

Tried and True – Camellia Mimosa Jury

The floral perfection of Camellia Mimosa Jury

The floral perfection of Camellia Mimosa Jury

We have a familial connection here – this camellia was bred by Mark’s father, Felix, and named for his mother – but that is not why it is a tried and true plant. It is the perfection of the bloom which is its appeal, along with a much higher degree of weather hardiness than most pale, formal camellias. The regular arrangement of the petals, in similar lay-out to a water lily with no central stamens visible, is what makes it fall under the classification of formal (these rules are written down, I tell you). The soft pink colouring is particularly pretty. When the blooms are spent, they fall to the ground rather than hanging on as brown mush – a characteristic which is called self grooming.

Mimosa Jury has been around for some years now – there are established specimens locally in New Plymouth in St Mary’s Cathedral grounds. Left to its own devices, as has been the original plant behind our house, it grows tall and columnar, making an excellent hedger or accent plant. It also makes a brilliant clipped specimen. The neighbours have a perfect big lollipop Mimosa Jury as a feature. They have kept it tightly clipped and pinched out so that it is a solid ball of healthy foliage which will hold the perfect blooms out to display. In our opinion, this camellia is probably the best that Felix named and it is no wonder that it has stayed so popular over a period of years. Other formal camellias have bigger blooms but usually sustain much more weather damage and do not have as many flowers over a period of many months.

Camellia diary – the first entry April 7, 2010

Click to see all Camellia diary entries

Click on the Camellia diary logo above to see all diary entries

Crimson King - the first of the season's sasanquas to flower

Crimson King - the first of the season's sasanquas to flower

Our interest is in camellias as good garden plants, not blooms for the show bench or scientific analysis. We remain focused on the garden. The first camellias started to come into flower here about three weeks ago, at a time when we were still reluctant to admit that summer is over for another year. The fact that we can flower camellias from March to November is perhaps one reason why they have been so popular in New Zealand.

At this stage, it is only a few species and the very earliest sasanquas with flowers. Microphylla and brevistyla were the first and while their flowers are soft and easily damaged, there are so many still to open that the simplicity and brevity does not pall. Mark had to get out the hand lens to pick the difference in the flowers of these species but microphylla seems to grow a little larger as a bush. We are raising a batch of microphylla seedlings for use as a hedge in the future, though we wonder whether what we have are natural hybrids between the two – the parent plants are in close proximity.

Punicieflora is also in flower with its tiny little daisy-like pink flowers. These are understated but charming in their own way. The foliage is a bit of a pale olive green in full sun but the upright to arching growth and small leaves mean it is a good subject for clipping as a feature plant. I am gradually shaping ours to resemble a two metre high tiered cake stand.

Sinensis, the tea camellia, is also in flower but these are of little merit despite the form we have being pink. We have tried brewing our own tea and blind taste tests from the tasting panel of two felt it came creditably close to our favoured Earl Grey.

The earliest species to flower for us this season

The earliest species to flower for us this season

Amongst the sasanquas, Crimson King is the most advanced. Mahogany red perhaps a generous descriptor of the shade of red (in the Camellia Nomenclature), it being closer to pink-red but it is an open, graceful shrub that we keep pruned to 2.5 metres. Elfin Rose has her first flowers showing colour.

In the nursery with protected conditions, flowering is usually advanced by a good couple of weeks and lo and behold, we have the first flowers on Mark’s camellia Fairy Blush. This was the first camellia he named, an open pollinated lutchuensis seedling and because it wasn’t a controlled cross, Mark was rather off-hand about it. Now we feel that it is the one that got away from us and we should have protected it with a plant patent. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We simply did not see that it was going to be such a commercial success but a pretty little scented camellia which flowers in abundance for a good six months is a recipe for good sales. All the same, it can be a little galling when an Australian nurseryman visits and tells you just how well he has done out of Fairy Blush.