June 24, 2020

Camellias: By the light of the moon

Of all garden shrubs, the camellia’s foliage must be one of the most attractive – beautiful by day, and even on a moonlit night.

Elegans Champagne

No other colour is more obvious on the background of the camellia’s glossy, dark green leaves than the pureness of white. White camellias reflect light, remaining visible in dim light and glowing in bright moonlight. If you enjoy your garden more during the evening, white camellias could be the shrub for you.

In harsh conditions, white camellia flowers will benefit from being grown with protection from the elements, such as wind, heat and direct sunlight. 

Camellias are ranked as one of the very best winter flowering shrubs and there are plenty of outstanding white varieties to select from.

Below are some of the best white camellia varieties for Adelaide gardens. With this selection you will be able to choose a camellia for most applications and protected garden situations. 

For South Australian gardens there are two recommended species of camellias. The first is Camellia sasanqua, noted for its hardiness, early autumn flowering and diverse growth habits. The second is Camellia japonica, it flowers from winter through to late spring, this is the most widely grown and most recognised. 

Sasanqua Early Pearly

Camellia sasanqua
Early Pearly
bares the most perfect pure white formal double blooms. Not large flowers but, like all sasanquas, what may be lacking in size is more than made up in the quantity of blooms. The blooms are more like large blossoms which cover the bush and carpet the ground beneath. Flowering is from April through to July. The growth habit of the Early Pearly is very versatile. While it initially presents an open and spreading habit, with a little guidance in the way of pruning it soon makes a leafy bushy plant. Great for pot culture, as well as a garden specimen. Valuable as a hedging plant, outstanding grown as an espaliered plant, growing along a fence or wall, and great where access is limited. 

Snow you can grow as a ground cover, hanging basket specimen or train it up a stake to become a standard weeping feature or hanging over a retaining wall. Snow is one of the few prostrate camellias. For a sasanqua its flowers are quite large semi-double blooms, not quite pure white but a beautiful ivory white. Wonderfully versatile. Flowers appear from March to July.

Mine no Yuki (Japanese translation, Snow on the Mountain) Pure white fluffy double blooms borne in profusion on a compact, bushy plant, usually growing as wide as it does high. Like all sasanquas, its growth habit is very versatile. Valuable in pots, in the garden or grown as a border/hedging plant. An abundance of blooms from April to July.

Camellia japonica
Fimbriata is a significant heritage camellia, having been first imported from China to England in 1816. It is a mutation of a japonica called Alba Plena which is thought to have been in the first importation of camellia plants to Australia; the shipment arrived in February 1831 for William Macarthur. Fimbriata, as the name implies, has a fimbriation to the petal edge. Delicately serrated petal margins make this pure white formal double camellia one of the most sought after. It is early and long flowering. An asset in any protected garden situation.

Silver Anniversary

Silver Anniversary has a large to very large informal double bloom. A stunning white camellia with an upright bushy growth habit. Large flowers often hang and look at the ground, but not Silver Anniversary blooms. These flowers sit proudly on the bush and look at you! An ideal specimen for a large pot or tub.

Nuccio’s Gem originator Nuccio’s Nursery of Pasadena California is the foremost camellia introducers in the world and this is one of the many that made them famous. Large, perfectly formed formal double blooms of the crispest purest white you will see in any flower. This is perfection itself. Nuccio’s Gem has a mid-size bushy growth habit; another variety idea for a container.

Polar Bear is one of the hardiest white camellias available. Polar Bear is a seedling of one of the all-time hardiest camellias, Great Eastern. We love this variety as it has the hardiness characteristics of its parent but with a perfect semi-double formation. That is two rows of perfectly formed petals with a central column of golden stamens. The bush is a great improvement on its parent, having a slow-growing, compact and bushy growth habit with rich dark green foliage. What better plant for the garden or as a tub specimen?

Shiro Chan

Elegans Champagne belongs to a collection of stunning “sports” (mutations) of an old deep pink and white variety call Elegans. Sports usually occur as a colour variation on the parent plant. Elegans Champagne is one of the exceptions, where it changed not only in colour but the form of the flower itself. Elegans Champagne is a large to very large white (occasionally with a touch of pink towards the centre), of a form classed as a double centre or anemone form. A striking feature of the bloom is the crepe paper-like texture of the petals and a fine ruffling to the petal edges. No wonder it’s a consistent prize winner at camellia shows and competitions! 

Shiro Chan is another of the Elegans “sports” producing lovely double centre white blooms, occasionally with a touch of pink towards the centre. The beautiful slightly weeping bushy growth habit gives a less rigid form in the garden or a pot.

Lovelight is a large strong growing “bulletproof” camellia. With large pure white semi-double flowers that demand to be seen. Lovelight is hard to overlook. Well suited to the garden but is equally happy grown in a pot.

Pope John XXII is a must-have variety for those of the Catholic faith, but also a great performing flowering plant. Strong bush growth with medium size classic formal double blooms. Again, one for the garden, or pot, also excellent for hedging.


This story first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of SALIFE Gardens & Outdoor Living magazine.

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