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Camellias: A Fall Show of Flowers

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

It’s almost time for the biggest and best show of the fall gardening show – the appearance of camellia flowers.

I’ve had considerable experience with camellias over several decades of gardening and none have really disappointed me.

In a garden flooded with salt water and debris during Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, camellias weathered the storm, never showing a blemished leaf or flower. Their established root systems also fared fine during bone-dry times.

Where I live now on a saltwater creek in York County is much the same, except I have less shade to protect the camellias from brutally hot summer days. Even so, my camellias thrive under the minimal shade of two towering pine trees in one area and a smaller bald cypress in another spot.

My favorite, never-fail camellias include Snow Flurry and Yuletide.

Fall-flowering Snow Flurry is aptly named because the graceful, arching shrub is covered in hundreds of small, dainty white flowers, making it look like it had been showered with a dusting of snow.

Yuletide, another fall-blooming Camellia sasanqua, flowers in November-December, producing holiday-red blossoms just in time for the holidays.

Camellias, like most trees and shrubs, are best planted in autumn so cool, wet weather can help root systems get established before hot, dry weather arrives again.

When you shop for a camellia, select one in a size that suits your growing space. Plant a succession of camellias, including fall-, winter- and spring-blooming types, and you can have six months of instant garden color.

Camellias are best pruned as soon as they finish flowering.

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Plant of the Week: ShiShi Gashira Camellia

There's a good reason camellias have been a part of the southern landscape for more than 200 years - simply put, they're just amazing.

Native to the Orient, these graceful beauties were introduced into the U.S. near Charleston, South Carolina in 1786. Camellias come in so many varieties, flowering October through March depending on the type you choose. Flowers range in color from pure white to dark red, while some cultivars offer multi-colored or variegated blooms. Flowers can be saucer-shaped single or double blooms and even ruffled like the Peony camellia. For the remainder of the year, their evergreen foliage is an attractive glossy green providing year-round beauty. Most camellias are shrub-sized and compact and can serve several functions in the landscape. Whether they are planted as a hedge line, mixed with other shrubs, planted in a container, or situated as a standalone bush, camellias don't ask for much and yet give so much beauty in return.

Try one of our very favorite camellias, ShiShi Gashira - a versatile performer displaying profuse, hot pink, semi-double blooms with golden yellow stamens in the center and glossy, dark green foliage. Their flowers are perfect for cutting. We love snipping the blooms and simply floating them in a bowl of water around the home. These evergreen shrubs are an ideal choice for a colorful low hedge, espalier or high profile groundcover. ShiShi starts flowering in October and continues through December, yet you'll enjoy it's evergreen foliage all year long. Let's hear it for ShiShi Gashira!

overview: Prefers filtered sun; water regularly when top 3 inches of soil is dry; moderate growing 4-5 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide; blooms fall through winter

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photos from Monrovia

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Plant of the Week: Autumn Embers Encore Azaleas

Get fired up this fall with Autumn Embers Encore azaleas! Well known for being hardy and low-maintenance, these reblooming azaleas add vivid, multi-seasonal color unlike any other azalea. This dense, rounded shrub features an abundance of semi-double, fiery, orange-red flowers that are produced in spring and fall and sporadically throughout the summer. Autumn Embers reaches a height of three feet by three and half feet wide and is ideal planted in garden beds and borders, foundation plantings, large containers or as a focal point in the garden. Azaleas prefer partial sun to partial shade, although Encore azaleas will tolerate more sun than most other varieties. So, color your landscape with the colors of fall with Autumn Embers.

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