Plant Collector: Camellia Sweet Jane

Sweet little Sweet Jane

Sweet little Sweet Jane

How pretty Camellia Sweet Jane looks at the moment. The flowers are darker pink on the outer petals fading to the faintest blush in the centre with a hint of golden stamens. It is a full flower, described in the camellia world as a peony form and it only measures about 5cm across so it is classified as a miniature. Yes it gets petal blight, but there is such a generous bud set that it still manages a good display over time. It came to this country in the 1990s from Australian breeder Ray Garnett. Readers who know their camellias may be surprised to learn that one of its parents is C. transnokoensis.

In that nineties rage for miniature camellia flowers, many people assumed that the bushes would also stay obligingly small. Few do. Our Sweet Jane, unclipped, is now about 3.5 metres tall and that is true for many of those small flowered varieties like Cinnamon Cindy and Gay Baby. But they do at least have correspondingly small leaves and are easy to clip if you want them kept lower. Camellias only need clipping once a year after flowering, or twice if you are after a tighter form.

We used to grow Sweet Emily Kate commercially. It came from the same breeder and its flower is arguably prettier (and pleasantly scented). Now that we are no longer selling it, I will admit it was a wonderful nursery plant and could look good if well cared for as a container plant but I’ve never seen it looking good planted out in the garden and left to its own devices. Sweet Jane is a much superior plant.

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