Camellias – growing camellias from seed

Much has been said recently about the benefit of collecting seed from your favourite camellia and growing it. Care for it for a few years – and the catch here is that this could take a fair few years – and see how it flowers. Chances are that it will flower the same as the seed parent plant – but there is also a chance that the bees have done a fantastic job of cross pollination and you will end up with a distinctly different flower – and here you have a new cultivar.

This is how a number of the cultivars that we grow and love today have come into existence, and this is the way we will get new ones in the future.

Hybridisers will do deliberate cross pollination using a particular seed parent and using the pollen from a specifically different pollen parent with the objective of the resulting new flower having the best attributes of both parents. And – bazzinga – a new and highly desirable camellia.

BUT, the observation I want to make today is about seed raising a couple of species – camellia Crapnelliana and camellia Trichocarpa.

Crapnelliana is a small tree to about 8 metres with a large single white flower with a big boss of yellow stamens – and has the largest of all the camellia seeds.

Crapnelliana seeds

We use the seeds to grow new plants as cuttings are rarely successful. The seeds fall to the ground at this time of the year – Autumn – we collect the fresh seeds which split open and collect the individual seeds from inside the thick pithy outer covering. We crack the hard covering of the seed, place in a pots ( we will put 20 or more into a community pot), cover with a shallow covering of potting mix, damp down, place in a shaded spot, keep moist, and wait a few weeks for the shoots to appear. We then prick out the new seedlings, snip the tip off the root pedicle (to promote lateral root growth), pot up, and watch them grow.

If we leave the seeds on the ground, the outer pithy husk dries up and the seeds go back into the soil as mulch.

In July last year, we visited camellia collector and hybridiser, Bob Cherry, and he graciously showed us around his garden full of camellias (and magnolias, wisterias, poppies, polyanthus and lots more) – in the hinterland just west of Sydney. The weather was cold – colder than what we left on the Sunshine Coast. There are many hundreds of camellias in his garden, certainly one of the most extensive collections of camellias in Australia. But the one I single out here is the species Trichocarpa.

Trichocarpa at Bob’s place

The seed of Trichocarpa is a large pod, somewhat smaller than that of Crapnelliana but a good tennis ball size. We collected seed with the intention of growing them on on our return to Palmwoods. Where these seeds had fallen, the ground was moist, the pithy husks were wet and crumbly (almost like peat) and the seeds sat in this environment, leaves falling onto them and partially covering them. We collected a bunch complete with the pithy outer husks and debris, whacked them into a bag and we are pleased to say that we have a few seedlings growing. I am very hopeful that these will survive, because I love this flower and the tree.

In my subsequent musings, I had a thought – these seeds were sitting in natures own seed raising mix. I thought that these seeds were being kept moist and the pithy husk provided a perfect medium for the new roots to grow into. These seeds would shoot their root into the husk, the new leaf shoot would pop up into the sunlight, and the root would continue down into the soil – and hey presto, a new tree in the little forest of Trichocarpa.

SO why is it, that back in Palmwoods, our Crapnelliana seeds fall to the ground, split – all good so far – then dry up and go hard and become mulch? Simple – we have hot wet summers and cool/cold and dry winters. When the seeds fall to the ground, the weather is dry – the seeds dry out and that is the end of the seed. It becomes just a small amount of mulch.

I happened to be in the garden yesterday – surprise – and I saw, under one of our Crapnelliana trees, a number of old seeds. Closer inspection revealed that one of these seeds had fallen into a spot where it had kept moist and a seed had in fact put a root down into the husk and a leaf shoot had grown to about 8cm. It had then dried out and died, and before I realised, the shoot broke off in my fingers. The husk that the root had gone into was moist and fibrousy and could be easily broken up with my fingers. You could still see the roots where they had grown into the husk.

Moist Crapnelliana seed - 1 year old

Crapnelliana seeds pods and old flower

I was pleased. Mother nature is a wondrous thing.

The fact is that we are growing plants in weather that is probably different to that in their native environments and we need to make allowances for that. We need to replicate as well as we can the conditions the plants need and in most cases, with our camellias, we can grow them very successfully.

Our weather is very different to that in Sydney/Melbourne with our hot wet summers and cool/cold dry winters, where southern states (in Australia that is) are ofter wetter in winter. This will mean that our flowers can dry out more quickly, so we must remember to keep a little bit of moisture to them – but not too much.

Gardening is so much fun.

Open Days and up-coming events

Well, this last weekend was our first weekend ‘open to the public’ for this season, and apart from the miserable constant rain all day Saturday, we had a great weekend. Sunday was beautiful, and a pleasure to be wandering the garden, showing folk the camellias in flower, and selling lots of plants.

We are very pleased with the range available again this year across sasanquas, japonicas, hybrids and species – including the tea camellia – camellia sinensis. We have about 200 different varieties – mostly in 140mm pots with a small quantity in 200mm pots.

Here is our ‘Open to the Public’ program and up-coming events for the next couple of months:

April 20 and 21 – nursery open to the public and garden open to wanderers

April 27 and 28 – nursery open to the public etc

May 4 and 5 – nursery open to the public, garden open to wander

May 11 – Saturday – nursery open to the public (Sunday 12 closed – Mothers Day)

May 18 and 19 – nursery open to the public etc

May 25 – Saturday – nursery open to the public (Sunday 26 closed)

June 1 and 2 – nursery open to the public

June 8 and 9 – nursery open to the public.
Also see us at Maleny Garden Club Gardening on the Edge – Maleny High School hall and also a number of open gardens to visit as well – always a great weekend for gardeners of all persuasions – 8 and 9 June.

June 15 and 16 – nursery open to the public – also Sunshine Coast Show, Nambour

June 29 – nursery open to the public (closed Sunday 30)
June 30 – Queensland Camellia Society show and bloom competition – Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens

July 4, 5 and 6 – see us at the Queensland Garden Expo, Nambour Showgrounds – best garden show in Australia – site #291 –

July 13 and 14 – nursery open to the public

Hope to see you..

We are still doing mail order – if you are looking for that one (or 3 ) camellias, drop us an email and ask. We don’t always have them all, but we will try.

Happy gardening

Misty morning

Nursery open to the public – this weekend 13 and 14 April

Despite the forecasted rain, the camellias are still flowering – well the sasanquas are and a few of the early japonicas – and we have lots of beautiful camellia plants ready for sale – so we are still open to the public this weekend.

This the first of our opening days for this season, and already we have had enquiries for those hard to locate camellias. We don’t have them all, but this season we have over 200 different varieties/cultivars available – so drop in – you might just find a camellia you just must have.

We have had another 133mm of rain this week and it is raining again.

Great weather for playing in the garden.

Joey - the guard dog

Camellias – open to the public

We will have our first ‘open to the public days’ 13 and 14 April, then each weekend after that in April and May. This is the first time we have been open this early – it gives people a chance to see the sasanquas in flower – and flowering they are.

Early varieties like Mikuni Ko, Sparkling Burgundy have been out for a while and now there are heaps – Violet Weymouth, Gay (such a great single white), Rainbow, Pure Silk, Narumi Gata – lots and lots – and the birds and the bees are loving them. Who said you need natives to attract the Australian native birds and bees into your garden – we have rosellas, king parrots as well as honey eaters and honey bees and a couple of different stingless native bees. See pics in a earlier blog.

Also, lots of folk lining up for that first open weekend 13 and 14 April – people wanting just the one special camellia – someone the other day wanted just one Betty Ridley and couldn’t get it anywhere – and folk wanting to plant a hedge or screen – some 5 metres, one 30 and one 60 metres. So there is a lot of interest in camellias.

We are still doing mail order for small quantities, we try for a minimum of three, but drop us an email if there is something you are chasing after.

And the big news today is that we have lots of flower buds on C. nitidissima – one of the yellow flowering camellias. Sometimes a bit shy to flower, our shrub is now about 3 to 4 metres tall and has dozens of buds. Can’t wait to see flowers again.

A bit hot today – like 33C, but the start of autumn will see cooler days and then the camellias will own the garden – again.

Get out into it.

Camellias – they are flowering!

What a summer we have had here! 2012, in July, August, September and October we had 21mm of rain. November 72mm and in December just 31mm. This was certainly the longest dry we have experienced here on the Sunshine Coast in the 14 years we have been here. Water for nursery plants was ok but we were not able to keep sufficient to the 400 or so plants in the gardens. The ones under part shade fared well enough, but others dropped leaves, looked poor and failed to put on any new spring and summer growth.

This was of some concern when we started taking cuttings in December – many plants did not have quality material for cuttings and as a result, we will be short of some varieties in 2014.

Then it rained and blew as the tail end of cyclone Oswald came down the coast – from 24 January we had at least 500mm in 5 days and so far in February (it’s 24th today) we have had another 270mm. We are expecting more today if the reports turn true. So, where we had dry brown grass, now we can’t mow it quickly enough – plants that had dropped leaves are putting on new growth – somewhat unseasonally – but the plants will do what they need to do at the right time for them. The early sasanquas, particularly Mikuni-ko, are flowering with spot flowers on Bonanza, Sparkling Burgundy and flower buds are sucking up that moisture ready to burst out over the coming weeks.

Japonicas that failed to put on new spring growth are now showing 20 and 30cm of new growth – and budding up on the old wood at the same time. With this amount of moisture in the ground now, we should have a good showing over the next 6 months.

During the ‘ex-cyclone’ event, we lost power for 3 days. Apart from some inconvenience in the home, our concern was that the cuttings we had taken in December were not getting the constant misting that give them the best chance of callousing and putting on roots. Whereas we have had some leaf drop, we are hopefully confident that out strike rate will pick up.

Open Days

As we start the flowering season, we have had many gardeners calling in to purchase camellias for their gardens. We will start our open days over the weekend 13 and 14 April and then each weekend in April. We will also open in May, June and July. Watch this for dates.

Dates to remember

30 June – Queensland Camellia Society display – Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens – Randall Studio. We will have plants to sell.

5, 6, 7 July – Queensland Garden Expo – Nambour – best show in the country – see us at stall #291.

We are also happy to do mail order for those who cannot visit us – east coast Australia at this stage. Email us..

Happy gardening

Nursery and Garden Open Saturday 4 August 2012

We will be around the garden again this Saturday 4 August, so please come and visit, walk the garden, buy a few plants. Our camellias are flowering their heads off, some are pretty much finished and some are in full flight, including most of the reticulatas. Retic Valentine Day Variegated is a sight and so is hybrid Nicky Crisp – just covered in flower – Royal Velvet, Midnight Magic, Cherries Jubilee – the dark black/reds – are looking great.

We have had a number of folk visit during the season, and it is great to be able assist so many people with their camellia needs. Without doubt, the camellia is growing in popularity among keen gardeners and novices alike. With so many varieties that suit SE Queensland conditions, there is normally plenty of choice. We are running out of some varieties, but we are confident of having an even larger range in time for the 2013 season.

Now that the sasanquas have pretty much finished flowering, these can be pruned back to a desired size and shape – so long as you are not in an area that will still get frosts, as the new growth can get damaged. Leaving for another month or so will not hurt as the new season growth will not be started by then. Leave your japonicas until they have finished flowering – just be sure to do your pruning before the new growth starts – it is psychologically difficult to prune off new growth. If you  are wanting to fertilise, early spring is the best time – and don’t forget to keep keep your plants well mulched. This keeps the weeds down and soil moisture in.

Still a great time to wander the garden full of camellias – ours is full of colour with the camellias, vireya rhododendrons, magnolias, michellias and now the peach blossom is magic.

Get out and enjoy it!

Open to the public again 28 and 29 July – Camellia Grafting – Gardening

The Nursery will be open again Saturday 29 and Sunday 29 July – 8.00am to 3.00pm.

Apologies to the folk who visited this past weekend and who were turned away or found us closed. We had a bit of an issue which ended up with me in an ambulance and off to hospital – but nothing broke and we are back on deck.

So we will be open to the public again 28 and 29th July. Come for a drive, walk the garden – now that the rain has stopped – enjoy the camellias – and buy some, if that is what you would like.

Grafting – now is probably the best time to try grafting that favourite camellia if you are wanting to get a few new plants of difficult to acquire varieties. Quite a number of japonica camellias are inconsiderately difficult to propagate from cuttings which we prefer to take in summer (December and January for us) when the new growth is just hardening off, and many reticulata camellias just about have to be grafted to be able to get a nice plant within a reasonable time.

There are many places on the internet that will give tips on grafting. Now is a good time to give it a try.

Some folk have indicated that some of their camellias are looking poorly – and one possible reason for us is the considerable rain we have had lately in SE Queensland. Have a walk around your garden and see where the water runs, either on the surface or below the surface, see if the water lies around for a few days or the ground is wet and slushy for an extended period of time. These are areas that camellias will not like – it is quite possibly too wet. Camellias insist on a well drained soil, and moving your new camellia plants to a better position, or one prepared so as to give good drainage, will give you better results. Using coarse sand or gravel mixed in with the back-fill and mounding the plant up on a little hill is often sufficient to give enough drainage for the plant to survive those high rainfall events.

This is a great time in the garden with many camellias in full bloom, some just starting and the retics yet to reach their peak – our magnolias are starting to colour up with flowers on Felix, Vulcan, Picture, Brozzonni, Royal Crown, Butterflies, soulangeana x Rustica Rubra (one of my favourites) along with many michelias like Silver Cloud and All Spice, with their fragrance filling the air all around the garden.

The vireya rhododendrons are still flowering up with a dozen or so flowering with their heads of pinks, yellows, orange, bi-colour and reds splashing their colour around the garden.

Get out and enjoy it.

If it’s cold, put some extra clothes on, if it’s hot then take some off – just remember to be sun smart and leave your hat on!

What a great time of the year to be a gardener!

Camellia flowers and bees

We have had a week of wet – 5 inches or 125mm of rain – and cold – one day a minimum of 15 and max 17 degrees.

But today was fine and sunny – even warm, and a walk in the garden in the middle of the day proved the value of camellias in the garden for bees. There were hundreds of them in all flowers with those lovely yellow stamens. The lutchuensis bushes were a-buzz with dozens of bees in each one. There were honey bees and a couple of different native bees.

Check these out.

Get out into the garden and enjoy..

We are open to the public this Saturday 30 June.
Come and see us at the Queensland Garden Expo at Nambour Show Grounds – 6, 7 and 8 July – best garden show there is….

Open Days – June & July 2012

More open days in June and July as follows:
Sunday 17 June – 8.00 am to 3.00 pm
Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 June – 8.00 am to 3.00 pm
Saturday 30 June – 8.00 am to 3.00 pm
Queensland Garden Expo Friday 6, Sat 7 and Sun 8 July – Nambour Show Grounds – see us there –
Saturday 14 and Sunday 14 July
Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 July

Probably more later. Just call if you would like to visit at other times.

We still have many varieties available for sale – about 175 – but we are out of some – still a few thousand plants available. We are happy for folk to visit and just wander the garden – it’s not a display garden, but you can see a couple of hundred named camellias in flower as well as a number of vireya rhododendrons. The magnolias have a few flowers and will start in ernest in the coming few weeks.

Look forward to seeing some of you.

Nursery and Garden open this weekend 26 and 27 May

SInce our last blog, we have had a change of plans – due to ill health – and as a result, we will not be attending the Beerwah expo BUT we will be here, and the nursery and the garden will be open. Same details – Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 May – 8.00 am to 3.00 pm.

The camellias are looking fantastic and lots of japonicas are just racing into flower. I said last entry that is is amazing what a difference a week makes – well Flower Girl and Dream Girl are flowering a real treat and as these are the first plants that most folks see on entering the property, we are selling out rather quickly, because everyone wants one – or 2.

We continue to be asked for varieties that we either are out of or that we do not have available – we will always do our best to have adequate supplies to meet demand, but as we take propagation some 2 years prior to sale, it is at time difficult to read the future demand. We will also be attempting more reticulata and japonica grafts this season and are excited at this prospect. If anyone has any retic scion stock available around June/July that you are prepared to part with, wrap it, name it (write the name on a leaf) and mail it and we will give it a go.

Happy Gardening – and hope to see some of you on the weekend.