When I published my article on The Golden Camellias of China and Vietnam back in early June, I added an excited postscript noting that one of our plants of a yellow species was about to bloom for the first time.
Not just one, it turned out, but three! These were plants that we bought in 2001, back in the heady days of Neville Haydon and his Camellia Haven Nursery and they were probably two-year old grafts at the time. So it has only taken about 17 years for them to flower in our conditions. We are marginal for these tropical species.
Fortunately, Neville is still available and switched- on, despite advancing years, and was able to identify the species from photographs. The labels on the plants here had long since gone. So this year, we have flowered C. euphlebia, nitidissima and impressinervis. The nitidissima we will have bought under that name because we already had C. chrysantha and would not have bought a second one and it is likely that they were thought to be different species back then. So we probably have two different forms of it.
They did not all flower at the same time, so I could not get a photo of all three in a row. What I can say is that C. euphlebia only had a four or five blooms in total and they were very small but the foliage is the largest of all and handsome in its own right.
C. nitidissima is the stand-out for us – plenty of flowers. Too many to count, even. Blooms were large enough to stand out on the bush and the foliage and form is handsome. Unfortunately our earlier form of C. nitidissima that we have under the name of C. chrysantha did not flower this year, so I could not compare the two forms.
C. impressinervis has blooms of similar size, substance and colour to nitidissima but not as many of them. It also appears to put up filaments (presumably petaloids?) in the centre of the showy boss of stamens. Our plant is upright with the typical bullate foliage and it set at least 100% more blooms than C. euphlebia this year (in other words, about 10).
These are collectors’ plants. I am not aware of them still being in commercial cultivation in New Zealand. But at least they are in the country and anybody determined to get hold of them will be able to find material to graft plants for themselves. Though most people will need to learn how to graft first but the decline in technical skills is another topic altogether.
When you have waited 17 years for flowers, it is a pretty exciting experience (in an understated gardening sort of way) when the first blooms open.