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Gardening Articles: Care :: Plant Care Techniques

The Camellias

by Kevin Connelly

'Mrs Tingley'

In the warmest regions of the United States, camellias are in their glory this time of year. Across the country--in Seattle and Portland, Sacramento and Pasadena, Pensacola, Savannah and Charleston--autumn, winter and spring just wouldn't be the same without the perfection of camellia blossoms. Whether they're grown as specimen plants, as foundation shrubs, in woodland gardens, as hedges or ground covers, in containers or trained as espalier or bonsai, the camellia's abundant, showy flowers--ranging in color from the purest white to the deepest reds--add a striking, gracious element to the landscape. With life spans reckoned in centuries, these handsome evergreen plants are a lasting garden investment.

More and more gardeners--from those in the mildest USDA Plant Hardiness Zones (9 and 10), where tree-sized, 100-year-old camellias are considered treasures, to those in colder areas (zones 6 and 7), where cold-tolerant camellias are making their debut--are discovering the ancient pleasures of growing camellias.

Native to a swath of Asia from Korea and China to Japan, Taiwan and Indochina, the first written record of camellias grown for ornament dates to A.D. 863. Not surprisingly, many of the favorite camellia varieties grown in the United States originated in Japan and are sold under their Japanese names. But along with these old standbys, you'll find varieties named 'General George Patton' and 'Prince Eugene Napoleon', a sign that camellias are a passion America and Europe long ago came to share with Asia.

Today, breeders such as the world-famous Nuccio's Nurseries in Altadena, California, Dr. William Ackerman of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Clifford Parks of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill are leaders in breeding camellias for flower form, color and hardiness.

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