- Protect the shallow root zone with a thick mulch of organic matter such as milled cow manure and fallen leaves.
- Encourage bigger flowers by liquid feeding in autumn with Thrive for Flowers or Phostrogen.
- Never let camellias dry out, especially during summer — a drip irrigation system will keep them happy.
- Prevent root rot fungus by spraying once a year with Antirot.
- Dis-bud early in autumn by removing the third and fourth flower buds in each cluster.
- Take cuttings in late summer.
Camellia flowers can be divided into six bloom types:
- Single — one row of petals with no more than eight petals curve back to show off a pillar of visible stamens eg. Tama-No-Ura.
- Semi-double — two rows of petals overlap showing a boss of visible stamens eg. Lovelight.
- Formal double — a perfect spiral created with several layers of overlapping petals with a central cone of furled petals arranged symmetrically never showing stamens eg. Desire.
- Anenome — one or more layers of outer petals ring a central mass of frilled petals with some stamens eg. Dona Herzilia de Freitas Magalhaes.
- Peony or Informal double — raised petals hide a mass of twisted petals and stamens. eg. Margaret Davis.
- Rose — several layers of overlapping petals open to show off the central stamens eg. Guilio Nuccio.
‘Lovelight’ flowers mid-season with pure crepe petals and gold-tipped stamens.
‘Nonie Hayden’ has a peony form that flowers mid to late season — a fast grower.
‘Silver Chalice has exceptional silver white peony form flowers in mid season.
‘Guilio Nuccio’, a much celebrated Californian cultivar, flowers early to mid season.
‘Royal Velvet’ is sun hardy, upright and compact, ruby red flower, mid season.
‘Betty Ridley is a sun hardy formal double flowering early to late.
‘Dixie Knight’ flowers mid season and is good in pots.
‘LT Dees’ has enormous formal double petals and flowers mid to late season.
‘Nuccio’s Gem’ is a very popular, perfect white-spiralled flower, early to mid season.
‘Desire’ by name and by nature, a popular formal double, flowering early to mid season.
‘Waltz Time’ is a medium grower with mid to late season flowers.
‘Buttons and Bows’ with fluted petals that flower early to mid season.
‘Debutante’ peony form, mother to Desire, flowers early to mid season.
‘Tiptoe’ bred at Camellia Grove, is sun hardy with semi double flowers in mid season.
Where to buy
Camellia Grove Nursery
8 Cattai Ridge Road, Glenorie, NSW, 2157
(02) 9652 1200; www.camelliagrove.com.au
Collectors Plant Fair in April
Where to see?
See wonderful garden camellias in full bloom at historic home Eryldene, home of the late Professor Waterhouse who pioneered the introduction of camellias and worked to raise their profile. Open throughout winter — for details go to www.eryldene.org.au
Surprise of the month
Autumn crocus, Zephyranthes candida, is a tough little bulb that flowers in profusion after rain — hence its sometime alias, the storm lily. It has shiny evergreen foliage and the flowers are white and open, like fragile crocuses. Grows up to 20cm tall. Bulbs multiply rapidly to form a clump. Zephyranthes will grow in most regions in sun or semi-shade. Protect it from the hot sun in warm climates. It is not fussy about soil, even coping with poorly drained clay soils. It’s a little gem for containers (where a watering can may imitate rain, giving plenty of flowers) and it makes a delightful border in both formal and informal designs. Leaf tips can brown off in hot dry weather. Some like it in place of mondo grass.
In April it’s time to —
Pomegranate — enjoy the fruit as juice or as arils in sweet or savoury autumn salads.
Plant a year’s worth of garlic by pushing cloves into the soil to a thumb’s depth.
Plant a carpet of miniature bedding cyclamen in dappled shade under a tree or shrub for vibrant colour and perfume through to winter.
Plant a salad bar of lettuce.
Divide clivea, agapanthus, mondo and dianella.
Move evergreen shrubs like gardenia, camellia, azalea and murraya if they’re in the wrong spot.
Remove the spent bottlebrush flowers of bottlebrush, flowering gums, melaleuca. Cut the flowers behind the seedpod formation. This trim will create better shaped and longer living trees.
Deadhead roses, perennials and dahlias to prolong flowering.
- Pull out:
Pull out summer crops to make way for winter vegetables. Loosen the soil, top dress with manure and dig in blood and bone.
Use derris dust or Success on cabbage seedlings to prevent cabbage moth damage.
Eggplant tends to ripen in late autumn. Don’t let them get too old or they will develop bitter flavours in the seeds.
Pick figs when fully ripe and nearly splitting as they don’t ripen off the tree. Eat them dolloped with double cream, roasted with prosciutto, bubbled into jam or swirled through ice cream.
Chilli season is starting. Feed plants to increase the yield and consider your preserving options: dry them; cook them into chilli jam; infuse them in olive oil.
Coriander and parsley grow like weeds through the cooler weather. Whizz them up into a green salsa verde with lime juice, rocket and sorrel and spoon over fish or through pasta. ☐
In the Veggie Patch - Plant now
- Kale should be planted from seedling now about 40cm apart.
- Sweet podded green peas are best grown from seed. If you dry and collect the seed at the end of the season you’ll only ever have to buy pea seed once! Add a little garden lime before sowing and avoid sowing during rain.
- Easter is garlic planting time. Plant 100-150 cloves about 5cm deep and the harvest supplies the family all year. Buy garlic bulbs from a reputable organic supplier or buy at Collectors Plant Fair.
- Sow a square of parsnip, using fresh seed. Don’t delay as cool soil will impede germination.
- Plant a patch of Florence fennel bulbs. They are delicious thinly sliced with smoked salmon and lemon juice and can also be let go to seed to attract beneficial bugs such as ladybirds.