Flowering this week: Camellia brevistyla

The simple charm of the species, Camellia brevistyla

The simple charm of the species, Camellia brevistyla

Little Camellia brevistyla is in flower already, even before the sasanquas are showing colour. Individual flowers only last a day or two because they consist of a single row of between five and seven soft petals which pass over quickly but as they are tiny, measuring about 2.5cm across, they disintegrate quickly and there are plenty coming on. And the pristine white contrasts well with the dark green, small leaves. Brevistyla is a great candidate for clipping but it is also one of the best camellia options we have seen as a replacement for buxus hedging. It suckers and layers a bit which helps to make a dense hedge and it sets abundant seed so if you can find somebody with one plant, you could gather their seed (and probably seedlings) and raise your own hedge at no cost. While you will get some variations amongst the seedlings, these will be minor and barring the occasional freak (possible but unlikely), they won’t look different to the parent. While it is recorded as growing relatively tall in the wild in its native habitat of Taiwan and parts of mainland China, the plant we have in the garden hasn’t got much over a metre in a decade.

We have Camellia microphylla as well which has to be closely related to brevistyla and have raised microphylla seed as our replacements in reserve, should our buxus hedges become blighted. It grows a little taller than brevistyla but it wasn’t until Mark got out with a magnifying glass and analysed the subtle variations in the stigma length that he worked out the difference between the two species. Both make delightful autumn pictures with simple white flowers and dark foliage.