Tall camellias

I am quite pleased that several of the garden’s camellias now tower above eight feet, with a few topping ten. Uppermost branching is not stocky, but even long, slender branches remain rigid in all but the dampest snowfalls. In this first week of November, many camellias are flowering, unaffected by recent twenty degree nights.

A bee visits a camellia flower on a sunny November afternoon.

Though there are twenty or so camellias total, only a few with variegated foliage (‘Royal Flush’) are unusual at all. Most are autumn flowering hybrids introduced by the National Arboretum, with a handful of spring blooming Japanese camellias (Camellia japonica) that are more variable and less dependable to flower. I don’t believe I’ve ever lost a camellia to freezing temperatures, but flower buds of spring bloomers are occasionally damaged when winter temperatures drop below zero (Fahrenheit).

I once believed that camellias would not grow so tall in our chilly climate towards the northernmost limit of their hardiness. I saw huge camellias in the lower south, but assumed none would grow so vigorously in northern Virginia. In this case, I opted to grow the sturdiest varieties rather than collecting less common types. In fact, today’s flowers are enough to convince me that I have not sacrificed beauty.