Thursday, November 19, 2009

Autumn camellias

From the beginning I've followed a self-imposed rule to show only plants grown in my own garden in these blog postings and on my web site. Over the years there have been very few exceptions. The image above is one of those exceptions. This group of camellias grows in a garden a mile or two from here. I've been watching them for years because they grow along a road I travel frequently; unfortunately for camellia watchers, that road is a much traveled commuter route, one with a history of frequent accidents. It's not the sort of road along which one might slow down and smell the roses.

As a result, my appreciation of these camellias was one based on quick sightings from a distance. The other day I stopped by to get a close look. I knocked on the door of the house but no one answered. I was already parked right beside the camellias, and I took two photos.

These are some of the Ackerman hybrids, camellias noted for their cold hardiness. The comparatively big flowers are full of petals and retain some of the fragrance of the wild forms of Camellia sasanqua and C. oleifera. When they are in full bloom, they remind me of big old plants of double flowered althea or rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus.

The plants shown here grow in full sun in a site fully exposed to wind: in other words, hardly the sort of place where one would expect a camellia to thrive. Over the years I've noticed some browning during the winter, but other than that they seem to be well adapted to these conditions.

A neighbor down the street also has one of these Ackerman camellias and it, too, is full of bloom right now. No other November-flowering shrub comes close to these for flower color effects.

Update, June 2016: all but one of these camellias was severely damaged or killed in the 2015-2016 winter. The dead/damaged plants have been removed, and only one survives at this site.

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