Sometimes in winter we all need a pick-me-up, a bright reminder that spring will come again. Winter camellias provide a long-lasting display of color in the bleakest part of the year. Unlike the spring camellias, individual flowers don’t hold very long nor brown on the branch; they drop in a shower of petals, and keep opening new flowers over the entire season. Our native Anna’s Hummingbirds find them a welcome treat too!
Winter camellias in the Pacific Northwest include Camellia sasanqua varieties, Camellia heimalis varieties, and the Camellia x williamsii hybrids. These are all evergreen shrubs, growing best in partial shade. They prefer humus-rich acid soils, so fertilize with rhododendron food and mulch well.
The October Magic series – a new series of hybrids, featuring an early start with extended bloom (October to January) and compact habit October Magic Ruby is a nice bright red; October Magic Bride is clear white and slightly larger.
The Ice Angels series – also early and long blooming, but reaching more traditional camellia sizes. I like Winter’s Joy, a somewhat open bush with lots of bright pink flowers.
Shishigashira – an older variety, noted for very showy pink flowers and a lower dense and spreading habit. Long bloom through the winter.
Yuletide – the most popular winter camellia, consistently in bloom at Christmas in western Oregon. Very upright habit that shows off the flowers well – dark red with a bright boss of yellow stamens prominent in the center.
Setsugekka – a large, somewhat open shrub with many white flowers starting in October or November and still going in late January.
Buttermint – like other Camellia x williamsii hybrids, a bit late to the party but filling in the gap between the other winter camellias and the later spring blooming Japanese Camellias – late January or early February through the end of March. Buttermint has the most unusual flower color for a camellia – ivory just verging toward yellow – and a noticeable and pleasant fragrance.
~ Advice from Darren Morgan