Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Karma Camellias; A Winter Rose Is Perfect for Adding a Much Needed Dash of Colour at This Time of Year

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Karma Camellias; A Winter Rose Is Perfect for Adding a Much Needed Dash of Colour at This Time of Year

Article excerpt

Byline: YOUR GARDEN With Diarmuid Gavin

RECENTLY, we celebrated roses. This week, it's the turn of the winter rose, or the camellia, which was once considered so delicate, the Victorians built camellia houses to grow these exotic beauties.

In fact, they are hardy creatures and long lived - the oldest specimen today is reputed to date from 1347 and is still growing in a monastery in China!

If you want to know the best conditions to grow a camellia, look how they grow in the wild.

Hailing from the east - notably, China, Japan and Korea - they grow in groups in semi-woodland settings. Often situated on free-draining slopes in slightly acidic soil, they enjoy cool dry winters and plenty of rainfall in spring.

So ideally you need to give them some light dappled shade which will protect them from the scorching sun in summer.

It's also key that they don't dry out in spring and summer when they are forming buds for next year. Equally, they don't like to sit in soggy soil over the winter.

Plenty of humus in the form of compost or well-rotted manure will help drainage while retaining moisture and nutrients. The old adage of spending a penny on the plant and a pound on the hole applies here - although with inflation you might need to adjust these figures.

They like to grow in slightly acidic soil with a ph of 5.5 to 6.5. Although they are more lime tolerant than rhododendrons and azaleas, if you grow them in alkaline soil they will struggle to obtain iron and you will soon see their leaves turn yellow.

For optimum results, feed in spring and summer with an acidic food but don't overdo it - overfeeding is just as harmful as underfeeding. In borderline soils, a dollop of sequestered iron will improve matters.

If your soil isn't acidic, then growing in pots is your best bet, using ericaceous compost. …

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