Tag Archives: Camellia minutiflora

Notes from the Garden of Jury, September 30, 2018

The early spring bulbs are over and we are now into mid-season. We garden with many, many bulbs and probably find them a great deal more fascinating than most who are less enthusiastic. I could wow a few readers with the Phaedranassa cinerea or maybe the Cyrtanthus falcatus in bloom now, but to the casual eye, a simple planting of bluebells and Narcissus bulbocodium naturalised around the base of an old eucalyptus tree is likely to be far more charming. That eucalyptus dates back to around the 1870s when Mark’s great grandfather planted several around the property. They are messy trees because they shed bark and small twiggy growth all year but look at that interesting twist in the trunk that some varieties develop with age.

Camellia minutiflora – a charming and graceful species

The flowers are delightful and abundant but small – C. minutiflora again

I do a lot of flower and garden photography although I would only describe myself as a gardener and writer who takes photographs, not a photographer as such. And some flowers are really difficult to photograph. I feel I have got to grips with magnolia images but making a series of flower shots of some genus can be particularly challenging. It is mighty hard to make a whole lot of full trussed rhododendrons, japonica camellias or hybrid tea roses look interesting rather than a series of blobs. More on rhododendrons later in the season. But so too is it difficult to capture some of the smaller flowered shrubs, conveying their charm. I have taken many photographs of the dainty camellia species, C. minutiflora, and they remain a dismal failure in capturing the simple visual delight to the naked eye. It is such a delightful plant that we have used it in a number of places through the garden. In the end, I decided I just had to pick a few sprays and lay them on a plain background to try and show just how sweet this little camellia is when you can see the detail.

Daphne genkwa – the blue daphne

Daphne genkwa with its corylopis backdrop

So too with the less common blue daphne, D. genkwa. I photograph it every year and then delete almost all the photos as not doing justice to the plant at all. This may be because it is not a shrub with much to distinguish it other than its remarkable lilac blue flowers. And so too the corylopsis, often referred to as witch hazels. I think we only have two different forms of corylopsis. One flowers earlier and makes a charming haze of creamy yellow behind a Daphne genkwa. The other is flowering now and may be a form of C. pauciflora but we have never taken much interest in unravelling the family. They just occupy a space and remain relatively anonymous for most of year except for their splash of dainty blooms in the two weeks or so when it is their turn to shine. Colder, drier climates appear to get a more extended flowering season on a number of these deciduous shrubs whereas, in our mild conditions, they are more of a fleeting delight. But on their days, what a delight they are.

Corylopsis

And the corylopsis in situ with Rhododendron spinuliferum to the right front and and the burgundy loropetalum behind

It was garden writer, Neil Ross, whom I first heard likening a garden to musical theatre. Don’t plan a garden full of stars only, he said. Those stars need the chorus to make them shine so don’t forget those plants filling the role of the chorus. That is how I see these plants which have a short season – chorus cast with a brief solo in the spotlight.

Just look at the lily border. It never looked like this last year when the rabbits won the battle on the emerging shoots. Mark is getting bored with his daily round of vigilance and looking forward to the time when the stems get tall enough to be out of the reach of the rabbits. But spraying the plant with water and sprinkling just a part teaspoon of blood and bone on each plant is working. The reason for doing it one by one is because it has to be reapplied after rain and we don’t want to be over fertilising the whole border by broadcasting the blood and bone freely and often. Besides, I was a bit shocked at the price last time we bought some. It would be easier to manage if we bought some liquid blood and bone so it could just be applied with one action but we will use up what we have first.

The price to pay for a lily display is clearly ongoing vigilance.

Yes, yes I know the advice is always given not to drive over hoses. Based on experience, it appears that you can get away with it when the hose is still relatively new but there comes a point in the age of the hose when one incident of driving over it can render it a very leaky hose. This of course means that over the course of the next weeks, any user of said hose gets wet legs until the right stage of being fed up is reached and the hose replaced. We haven’t quite got to this point but it is imminent. And I will try not to drive over the next hose length.

Plant Collector: Camellia minutiflora

Camellia minutiflora

Camellia minutiflora

Before we finish camellia season for the year, I would like to introduce one of my absolute favourites. The foliage is small and dark and the branches are long and pendulous so it has a weeping habit. The tiny red buds open to masses of tiny white flowers with a deep pink flush. It is delicate in appearance and so pretty. The original plant came from Camellia Haven in Papakura (now closed) and has only ever reached a metre in height.

We are so taken by this cultivar that we have trained up about a dozen plants to a taller height, ready to plant out in our new garden. Imagine a miniature, evergreen weeping cherry and you may get a mental picture of the effect we are after with these plants.

It appears that the Chinese have reclassified this plant as a variant of another species so its correct name is Camellia lutchuensis var. minutiflora. As it is their plant and they have professional taxonomists, I am happy to accept their decision. C. lutchuensis has similar tiny foliage though much paler in colour and inclined to yellow in the sun, similar flowers though creamy white without the red and it is the most scented camellia of all. I cannot get any scent from C. minutiflora but it is superior as a garden plant.

This is a species. It can be raised from seed. If you can’t find it for sale but know of a plant somewhere, check around its base for seedlings.

After maybe 15 years, the plant is about a metre tall - C.minutiflora

After maybe 15 years, the plant is about a metre tall – C.minutiflora

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

Camellia Diary 5, August 29, 2010

Click to see all Camellia diary entries

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

Dainty little camellia species minutiflora

Dainty little camellia species minutiflora

The reticulatas, in this case Glowing Embers, are good value in the garden, despite the ravages of petal blight

The reticulatas, in this case Glowing Embers, are good value in the garden, despite the ravages of petal blight

In years gone by (that is, in days pre-dating rampant camellia petal blight), now would be the time when we would be enjoying mass flowering in the japonica camellias. That has gone. But the reticulata camellias have come into their own. Because most are red, petal blight does not show up as badly and with such huge blooms, the spoiled flowers fall cleanly to the ground. And they still mass flower for us, even if we measure their flowering season in weeks, not months. Reticulatas have become hard to source these days. Few grow on their own roots so they have to be grafted and in this day and age, that is a skill which has all but died out. Most buyers can’t tell the difference between a grafted plant and one which can be mass produced with little skill and great ease so they don’t understand why the former plant should be so much more expensive than the latter. It is a good argument for home gardeners learning the more advanced skills needed to produce these plants at home for themselves. Most of the retics in our garden were grafted by Mark’s father Felix, back in the 1950s and 60s – now they are small trees.

Spring Festival - pretty as a picture

Spring Festival - pretty as a picture

The other group of plants which continue to last the distance in the garden are the miniature flowered varieties, both hybrids and species. Any miniature flowered variety worth its salt should have masses of buds and flowers so it doesn’t matter if petal blight attacks after two or three days because there are so many fresh buds opening and individual blooms rarely last longer than a couple of days. Spring Festival is an American hybrid registered 35 years ago but I wish it had been one of ours because it is as pretty as a picture – a particularly pretty shade of pink with an attractive flower form, plenty of flowers, good pillar growth and a pleasing glaucous cast to the leaf colour. Camellias are a bit like roses – far too many are named and registered and don’t stand the test of time but a few last the distance.
It is also clear that in terms of garden appearance, red camellias are a better bet than pale ones when it comes to petal blight. The reds do not look anywhere near as unsightly in the early stages when the blooms are showing speckles of brown.
Camellia minutiflora is just starting to open. It is a gem of a species with very dark foliage and dainty flowers. We have put a hold on most of the plants in the nursery as we ponder its suitability for formal hedging.