Fall-blooming Camellias in their Glory
Fall-blooming camellias are having their best season in the Delaware Valley yet. Traditionally the Southern Belles of the plant world, the Scott Arboretum has been growing and testing the new cold hardy cultivars since 2011. These shade-loving shrubs are currently awash in red, white, and pink blooms along Chester Road.
Camellias are a great alternative to cherry laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, for creating a shrub border with its glossy, evergreen foliage. These deer resistant plants enjoy dappled shade and bloom in fall or spring depending on the cultivar. While they will tolerate clay soil, it is best to amend the soil with compost and protect the shrub from strong winds. Grown behind Worth Residence Hall under dappled shade from mature white pines (Pinus strobus) our meandering collection is worth a visit this fall. Some of our favorite cultivars blooming in the collection right now include Camellia ‘Winter’s Joy’, Camellia ‘Polar Ice’ and Camellia ‘Autumn Spirit’.
Camellia ‘Winter’s Joy’ has bright pink semi-double flowers that are vibrant against the glossy green foliage. This selection, reaching a height of 6 feet and 4 feet wide, has an advantage over typical C. japonica cultivars. It drops the spent petals from the bloom. This prevents flowers from becoming unsightly mushy and brown. This cultivar is also great to espalier on a fence or lattice.
An anemone flower form, Camellia ‘Polar Ice’, has lovely white flowers. The shrub adds enchanting winter color to mixed shrub borders. It is also a great cut flower.
Another great fall blooming cultivar, Camellia ‘Autumn Spirit’ has intense bright, deep-pink petals on medium-sized peony-like flowers. This shrub is a moderate to vigorous growing evergreen.
Within our Camellia Collection, you will find several numbered or unnamed cultivars. I invite you to seek out the camellia labeled “vanilla scented pink seedling”. The simple pink flowers are delightful, but do not forget to breathe in the flower’s aroma. Let us know if you smell vanilla.
Stop by on Thursday, November 7, 2019 from 12 to 1 pm to explore the Camellia Collection with our curator and plant recorder, Mary Tipping.