Plant Collector: Camellia sasanqua Early Pearly

The lovely white sasanqua camellia Early Pearly

The lovely white sasanqua camellia Early Pearly

Sasanqua camellias are the autumn flowering ones in bloom now. They are cheerful and obliging plants, generally tolerant of full sun and wind and they don’t suffer from the dreaded petal blight. But in the main, they don’t have the good flower form of the main season types. Early Pearly is a stand out exception with quite the prettiest flower of any sasanqua that I know. It is a beautiful creamy white with the petals arranged formally in the layout we associate with water lilies. However, sasanquas have looser flowers and softer petals, so bloom lacks the rigidity or waxed nature of other camellia types. The foliage is a particularly good, dark forest green which gives good contrast.

The white sasanqua hedge has been used so widely that it has become a modern gardening cliché, which is a shame because it can be really lovely. But it does seem to begin and end with either Setsugekka or Mine No Yuki, particularly the former because it is so widely available, gives a quick result and is a favourite stand-by of landscapers. Personally, I would much rather be looking at the lovely Early Pearly. The one downside to EP (it is so hard to find the perfect plant) is that as a juvenile plant, it lacks the flower power of some of the other members of its family. I don’t mind that when each bloom is so pretty. As it matures, it sets many more flowers, especially when it has been trimmed, I am told. Sasanquas are native to Japan. The origin and breeding of Early Pearly has been harder to uncover although it was imported to New Zealand from Australia.