This can be a beautiful time of the year in Sydney, with its clear skies and crisp, sunny days. It is also the time for one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden to make its appearance, the Camellia.
Originally from Japan and China, the Camellias first came to Europe in the late 1860’s on the ships of Dutch traders and not long after to Australia. Interestingly, their role in Japan was less ornamental and more practical. The leaves of Camellia sinensis are used for tea and when crushed, the seed pods produce an oil very high in calories.
There are two species that do well here, Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica. The sasanquas, with their smaller, glossy green leaves, come out first. As they are fading, the japonicas with their larger flowers take over.
They are a tough tree and can do very well in the moderately acidic soils we generally have in Sydney. Their flowers range through many shades of pinks and reds to stunningly white whites that would make any washing machine proud. The sasanquas make a great hedging plant in sun to part shade and the japonicas an impressive feature tree.
A couple of things to look out for – they don’t like root competition so keep lawns in particular back at least a metre, and beware of planting near a new brick or rendered wall as the lime in the cement can leach out and make the soils more alkaline leading to a strong desire on their behalf to return to Japan!
There are a range of plants that traditionally associate with Camellias, namely Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Cliveas, Agapanthus, Magnolias and the like. I reckon ferns and the purpley coloured Alternanthera go really well too.
Finally, keep them well mulched and watered and enjoy this beautiful time of year!