Tag Archives: Camellia yuhsienensis

Our winner in the white camellia stakes – C. yuhsienensis

Camellia yuhsienensis

The world of white camellias is a quite heavily populated, especially if you narrow it down to white species camellias. Over time, we have gathered up most of the species that have been available to us, and very lovely many of them are. But the one we have singled out as the most attractive specimen plant is Camellia yuhsienensis.

You can tell how much we love this plant by the fact that we have chosen to use it as a feature plant. I just counted and found we have no fewer than seventeen of them as specimen plants, each sitting in its own space – not hedged or jammed in with other plants. It is not usually our style to repeat a single cultivar like that. Mark threaded it through the new gardens – the grass garden and the lily border – to give winter interest.

Threaded through the lily border to give winter interest. That is visible frost this morning. And a freshly dug rabbit scrape. The rabbits are still winning here. We may yet have to get a cat again, given our dogs are pretty useless on the rabbits. 

What do we love about it so much? It has handsome, bullate (textured) foliage which is not the usual shiny green associated with japonica camellias. It sets an abundance of buds in pointed clusters and opens them over a long period of time. But it is the flowers that are the real delight – pristine, white single blooms, good-sized and looking more like michelia or magnolia than classic camellia. And it holds its blooms well out from its leaves and branches. The blooms are not substantial but that can be an advantage in a camellia, especially when there is a long succession of fresh blooms waiting to take over. It is just a delight to us.

Some reports mention an overwhelming fragrance but we think that either that claim is exaggerated, the Chinese have greatly sensitised nasal capacities or the clone we grow here didn’t get much fragrance. It is really only lightly scented and that requires sticking one’s nose right up to the bloom. Nothing, alas, is perfect and we need to give the bushes an occasional shake or brush to get rid of spent blooms because they don’t always fall cleanly.

For NZ camellia purists, we grow the mounding selection chosen by Neville Haydon, back in his days at Camellia Haven

The native habitat of C. yuhsienensis is in the Hunan area of China which is, loosely speaking, southern(ish) and inland, with mountains, so it is not a tropical area. We have found it to be completely hardy in our conditions, although our winters are hardly testing. Because it is a species, plants raised from seed will show species variation. We started with two forms but always vegetatively propagated them to keep the selections stable. We had an upright columnar form but ended up cutting it out because the foliage and flowering were nowhere near as good as the mounding form we kept.

The bad news is that I doubt that it is commercially available these days in NZ so you will have to search hard to find one. I have to say that because it is disconcerting to me how many people read these posts and assume they are commercially driven and we must therefore be selling the plant and can send them one. Um, no. I write these posts because I am a writer by nature, we love gardening and it is greatly rewarding how many readers share this pleasure. I appreciate the comments. The phone calls and emails trying to order plants from us – not so much.

Superstar

And just because I took a nice photo of it this week, I close with Superstar. It grows at least four times the size as C. yuhsienensis, probably with a quarter of the flowers, if that, but it can show a lovely bloom. It is hard to beat a beautiful white camellia on its day.

Camellia Diary number 3: July 3, 2010

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July may see days getting a little longer but it also tends to herald the worst of our winter weather. However as chill, grey days can be interspersed, as today and indeed, last weekend, with positively mild days when it is possible to garden comfortably and shed layers of clothing, the camellias flower on undeterred.

The sasanquas are drawing to the end of their season but Elfin Rose, who opened her first blooms at the very end of March, is still a significant patch of lolly pink and dark forest green. Three months of flowering is better than most of the other sasanquas manage. Silver Dollar also just gets better every year and is excelling with an extended flowering season. We think Silver Dollar, being lower and slower growing, would make a good hedge. Alas were it not for the wonderful shape and maturity of Mine No Yuki, it would have had the chop by now. It does not justify its place here as a flowering plant where the pristine white blooms turn to brown mush in our rains.

The ever faithful Camellia Waterlily

The japonicas are just starting – the first flowers came on good old Waterlily, one of the first camellias named here by Felix. The original plant is pretty sizeable now – maybe six metres – but the early flowers are as lovely as ever. Half sister, Softly (another saluenensis hybrid) is also showing plenty of open bloom. In the class of pale formals, Softly shows good weather resistance. We went on a magnolia tour in northern Italy a few years ago and the timing coincided with the peak of their japonica display, and what a display. We soon worked out that camellias in that climate mass flower over a much shorter period of time. Here, ours flower for much longer but without that oomph all at once.

The lovely species yuhsienensis

Compact C. drupifera, planted here with burgundy aeonium and cordyline

In the species, C.gauchowensis is looking lovely but the star this week is the compact C.drupifera. Or maybe C.yuhsienensis. It is hard to decide – all look lovely with pristine white blooms. Yuhsienensis takes a bit of grooming to stay looking its best but it is such a lovely camellia. We have a row of about 50 plants in our open ground area which we are still debating about using as a hedge. Puniceiflora continues flowering – puny flowers but still with a simple, small charm.

Alas I found the disconcerting sight of the first instance of the dreaded camellia petal blight at the very beginning of June (about June 2, from memory). It just seems to get earlier every year but it is not yet showing up badly on garden plants so I will return to the topic later when it is no longer possible to ignore it.