Around my garden

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Is life too short.... dead head a Camellia?  Of course, this is a somewhat rhetorical question.

In an ordinary year I would not even contemplate wasting time dead heading a Camellia. There is of course no benefit to the plant and in a usual year, those heads fall, create a carpet of petals on the ground below, rake them up and dispose of them.  Job's a good 'un!

Before the extreme temperature fluctuations 

This year Camellia x williamsii Jury's Yellow is flowering a good 4 weeks later than usual and although I have endeavoured to plant them out of early sun, this particular Camellia gets perhaps a bit more sun than any of the others.  I can't say I noticed this being an issue before.  I'm sure I would have as it is seriously hampering my enjoyment of this beautiful shrub.      

This has lead me to ask myself two questions:

  • Is this an ideal spot to grow my favourite Camellia?
  • Is the weather the cause? 

The Ideal Spot?

It seems that there is a school of thought that states growing these plants out of early morning sun is an old wives tale and regardless of where they are planted, if the buds or blooms are hit by a frost, then hit by frost they are!  They will remain damaged.  Planting positions doesn't matter one iota.  It's as simple as that. Confirming this is a Camellia that grows in a garden nearby, facing east/south east and is a remarkable specimen and each year it has me scratching my head as to why it looks so good.  I've always had the understanding that Camellias will grow well in any aspect providing it does not face east. 

Since nursing this Camellia back from the brink, see my previous post here for an explanation.  It has been very happy and has thrived as you can clearly see.  It's a healthy specimen, compact and should eventually make a wonderful statement in the spot I chose for it, or so I thought.   I planted it so I can enjoy it in all it's glory and I'd hate to bother it by moving it again and cause it yet more grief.  There is of course the possibility that had I bothered to throw some fleece or other protection over it, it might not have suffered but whilst right now that's practical but when it reaches maturity that would not be so easy.  Do I really need another plant that I need to worry about giving frost protection too?  The answer is simple....NO!

Frost, sun or just faded?
Weather and conditions?

I am conscious of the fact that I have little comparison when it comes to this shrub.  I have to bear in mind that from 2007 until 2010 this plant was recovering in a pot in deep shade, where it was fed and watered well.  I did not allow it to bloom (I removed any flower buds that appeared) in the hope that it concentrated on creating a good root system.  In the ground, in a similarly shaded spot for 2 years, until I found it a permanent home in 2012, it continued to thrive.  Since spring 2012 we have had no notable late frosts and the extended cold this winter has meant that C. x williamsii Jury's Yellow is blooming far later that it has done previously.   It has also been very dry but this should not adversely effect this year's blooms.  As I look around the plant as a whole, it appears that those blooms to the rear are untouched by what ever is causing the issue to the rest of it.

Blooms to the rear

Close up
I am not sure whether or not it would be right to compare other shrubs blooming right now but planted on a similar aspect further down the garden but set back around 1.5m more and not in receipt of so much direct sun until a bit later in the day.  Magnolia stellata and Camellia japonica Lady Vansittart seem untouched by those mild frosts.

Just today I read an old article in the mail on line where Monty Don states that growers in more northern parts of the UK can expect Camellias to drop their spent blooms rather than hold onto them due to light intensity.  This could well explain why I haven't noticed those manky blooms before.  There has been no carpet of petals thus far.

Magnolia stellata just coming into bloom this last week

Camellia japonica Lady Vansittart


The Jury is still out!  Excuse the pun.  Frost, Sun or Light conditions?  At the moment it's all conjecture and until I have more notes to refer to I can't really say for certain. 

I am as certain as I can be that I have not noticed how hideous these blooms look as they age before. It's the kind of thing I would have noticed as I am particularly fixated on this plant since I put so much effort into in the past.  Therefore I have reached two conclusion.  Either one or a combination of both could be the cause.  Blooming later means that the sun in the sky is far higher than it would have been a month or so ago.  Might the sun be just high enough in the sky to prematurely age these blooms? The daytime temperatures have been extremely high.  We have been experiencing temps of 20°C in the afternoon and dropping right down to -1°C at night on a couple of occasions this last week.  Those are quite extremes for here.  Considering our average April temperatures are a meagre 11°C.

Do you grow Camellias?  Have you noticed any distinctive behaviour this year or are things just as you'd expect them to be? 

Back to my original question......Is life too short to dead head a Camellia?

Not this year, it took me all of 10 minutes and most of that time was spent on me making sure I didn't trample surrounding bulbs and plants.  They twisted of quite easily.  There was still plenty of flowers remaining and many many more buds to come.

Discarded flower heads
Within minutes the plant looked so much better, sadly, as the afternoon heat intensified, yet more blooms began to suffer again.  Perhaps it is sun scorch after all!
After dead heading