Most people are familiar with camellias as garden shrubs,
but did you know that there are a number of other unusual and creative ways that you can
use camellias to add colour and interest to your garden?
Espalier is a horticultural term derived from the French word
for trellis, and is used to describe a plant that has been trained to grow flat against a
trellis or wall. When selecting a plant for use as an espalier, look for one with open,
sprawling growth and several leading branches. Plant the camellia against the wall or
trellis, then tie the branches back in the desired position using soft plastic ties or
twine dont use wire as it can cut into the branches. Prune
off any unnecessary growth, training the leaders to grow horizontally or at an angle, with
the best displays generally being symmetrical. Try to keep any major pruning until after
flowering and your espalier will reward you year after year with a display of flowers that
will always be in clear view. Most sasanqua varieties are suitable, although any camellia can be trained as an espalier. For best results try
Fukuzutsumi, a heavily scented white-shaded rose-pink, or Plantation Pink, which has large single pink blooms.
Standard camellias can be used to make a very striking visual impact. Their
dark green foliage looks great even when the plant isnt in flower, and when it is
the effect is simply breathtaking! The thing to look for when selecting
a plant to make into a standard is a fast growing variety with a single,
strong and straight stem. Trim the branches to the desired height, leaving enough growth
at the top to trim to a balanced, attractive ball or dome shape. Reticulatas, because of their fast growth, are ideal
to make into taller standards, although the smaller leaves of
can also be trimmed tighter to give a more pleasing display. Standard camellias look great
alongside paths, or when planted in tubs on decking and patios. Good varieties to use are
Anticipation, or the reticulata varieties Barbara Clark, a
rose-pink semi-double with strong upright growth, or Brian, a similar variety
with medium pink blooms.
Varieties with loose sprawling habits such as Our Melissa are sometimes
grafted onto taller rootstock to create a weeping standard effect.
Camellias offer the perfect solution when it comes to screening ugly fences
or buildings, or for blocking out your neighbours. Sasanqua camellias are best for
creating neat, clipped hedges because of their compact growth, whilst japonicas will give
a more open screen. All varieties prefer a bit of light to be available to the centre of
the plant to perform at their best, so its better to grow them in a more open style
than traditional tightly trimmed hedges. Plant each camellia about a metre apart, water in
well and fertilise with a slow release fertiliser such as osmocote. Mixed hedges of japonicas and sasanquas can also be planted to prolong
the flowering period, so long as varieties selected are similar in growth habits. If
youre after a full flowering hedge effect its best to stick to the one
variety, and choose plants that are all fairly uniform in size and development.
Excellent varieties for hedging include Anticipation, which is
a deep rose flowered Camellia X williamsii hybrid, or the sasanqua varieties
Bonanza, and Yuletide.
In larger gardens, one dramatic way to use camellias is to scatter them
amongst trees such as oaks and elms, along with rhododendrons and azaleas to create a
natural woodland look. Because they all like similar soil conditions and all grow well in
dappled shade, they will happily spread amongst the tree
trunks. Avoid placing the
camellias in full shade though, as they will not produce much in the way of flower buds. Japonicas and reticulatas are the best types to use here,
red flowered forms such as Black Tie, or brilliant whites such as Desire will give the most striking visual effects.
Although Camellias are
usually large bushy shrubs, there are several varieties with sprawling
growth habits that are ideal for use as groundcovers. One of the best
examples of this is ‘Our Melissa’, which has pale pink flowers held in
profusion, all the way along its sprawling stems. Slow growing varieties
such as this also look great in large hanging baskets and planter pots,
where they can weep over the edges and provide beautiful eye-level
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Throw Away The Shears!