Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Is life too short....

.....to dead head a Camellia?  Of course, this is a somewhat rhetorical question.

In an ordinary year I would not even contemplate wasting time dead heading a Camellia. There is of course no benefit to the plant and in a usual year, those heads fall, create a carpet of petals on the ground below, rake them up and dispose of them.  Job's a good 'un!


Before the extreme temperature fluctuations 

This year Camellia x williamsii Jury's Yellow is flowering a good 4 weeks later than usual and although I have endeavoured to plant them out of early sun, this particular Camellia gets perhaps a bit more sun than any of the others.  I can't say I noticed this being an issue before.  I'm sure I would have as it is seriously hampering my enjoyment of this beautiful shrub.      


This has lead me to ask myself two questions:

  • Is this an ideal spot to grow my favourite Camellia?
  • Is the weather the cause? 

The Ideal Spot?

It seems that there is a school of thought that states growing these plants out of early morning sun is an old wives tale and regardless of where they are planted, if the buds or blooms are hit by a frost, then hit by frost they are!  They will remain damaged.  Planting positions doesn't matter one iota.  It's as simple as that. Confirming this is a Camellia that grows in a garden nearby, facing east/south east and is a remarkable specimen and each year it has me scratching my head as to why it looks so good.  I've always had the understanding that Camellias will grow well in any aspect providing it does not face east. 

Since nursing this Camellia back from the brink, see my previous post here for an explanation.  It has been very happy and has thrived as you can clearly see.  It's a healthy specimen, compact and should eventually make a wonderful statement in the spot I chose for it, or so I thought.   I planted it so I can enjoy it in all it's glory and I'd hate to bother it by moving it again and cause it yet more grief.  There is of course the possibility that had I bothered to throw some fleece or other protection over it, it might not have suffered but whilst right now that's practical but when it reaches maturity that would not be so easy.  Do I really need another plant that I need to worry about giving frost protection too?  The answer is simple....NO!

Frost, sun or just faded?
Weather and conditions?

I am conscious of the fact that I have little comparison when it comes to this shrub.  I have to bear in mind that from 2007 until 2010 this plant was recovering in a pot in deep shade, where it was fed and watered well.  I did not allow it to bloom (I removed any flower buds that appeared) in the hope that it concentrated on creating a good root system.  In the ground, in a similarly shaded spot for 2 years, until I found it a permanent home in 2012, it continued to thrive.  Since spring 2012 we have had no notable late frosts and the extended cold this winter has meant that C. x williamsii Jury's Yellow is blooming far later that it has done previously.   It has also been very dry but this should not adversely effect this year's blooms.  As I look around the plant as a whole, it appears that those blooms to the rear are untouched by what ever is causing the issue to the rest of it.

Blooms to the rear

Close up
I am not sure whether or not it would be right to compare other shrubs blooming right now but planted on a similar aspect further down the garden but set back around 1.5m more and not in receipt of so much direct sun until a bit later in the day.  Magnolia stellata and Camellia japonica Lady Vansittart seem untouched by those mild frosts.

Just today I read an old article in the mail on line where Monty Don states that growers in more northern parts of the UK can expect Camellias to drop their spent blooms rather than hold onto them due to light intensity.  This could well explain why I haven't noticed those manky blooms before.  There has been no carpet of petals thus far.

Magnolia stellata just coming into bloom this last week

Camellia japonica Lady Vansittart

Conclusion?

The Jury is still out!  Excuse the pun.  Frost, Sun or Light conditions?  At the moment it's all conjecture and until I have more notes to refer to I can't really say for certain. 

I am as certain as I can be that I have not noticed how hideous these blooms look as they age before. It's the kind of thing I would have noticed as I am particularly fixated on this plant since I put so much effort into in the past.  Therefore I have reached two conclusion.  Either one or a combination of both could be the cause.  Blooming later means that the sun in the sky is far higher than it would have been a month or so ago.  Might the sun be just high enough in the sky to prematurely age these blooms? The daytime temperatures have been extremely high.  We have been experiencing temps of 20°C in the afternoon and dropping right down to -1°C at night on a couple of occasions this last week.  Those are quite extremes for here.  Considering our average April temperatures are a meagre 11°C.

Do you grow Camellias?  Have you noticed any distinctive behaviour this year or are things just as you'd expect them to be? 

Back to my original question......Is life too short to dead head a Camellia?

Not this year, it took me all of 10 minutes and most of that time was spent on me making sure I didn't trample surrounding bulbs and plants.  They twisted of quite easily.  There was still plenty of flowers remaining and many many more buds to come.

Discarded flower heads
Within minutes the plant looked so much better, sadly, as the afternoon heat intensified, yet more blooms began to suffer again.  Perhaps it is sun scorch after all!
After dead heading

21 comments:

  1. Well done for resurrecting that plant! Camellias are beautiful, but they don't suit the conditions here so I don't grow them. In a way, I regard you as being fortunate to find yourself on the horns of this dilemma. I would love a Camellia, even with scorched blooms. That said, I am always very wary of plants which die badly. Lilacs always look a bit grim after flowering, so I tend to enjoy them in other people's gardens and look the other way when the blooms fade. Happy deadheading. It's a lovely task involving very little effort and can be done with a glass of wine in one hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do agree with you on the subject of plants that die badly, never a good look in the garden, is it Sarah?
      The trouble with a glass of wine is that it leads to another, and another - then the wine goggles are on and I'd get too carried away ;)

      Delete
  2. The deadheaded shrub is glorious - it was definitely worth the effort! I had a 'Jury's Yellow' years ago and don't recall this problem but my plant was young, the growing conditions were mild, and my memory may be poor. However, I've had problems with my C. 'Taylor's Perfection' for the past 2 years with buds failing to open and petals curling as if singed and I'm almost certain that our warmer winters and inadequate rain are the cause.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I don't remember this being an issue before so am kind of convinced it's due to the late bloom time. I would suspect the inadequate rain in the cause of the problems with any Camellia in your area Kris.

      Delete
  3. I have the same problem with my Camellia 'Jury's Yellow'. I have more Camellias in the same conditions, but only this one fade very quick and nasty. We had no frost at al and it's not in full sun, it is just the type of Camellia. If I should have known before I should not have bought it, despite the beautiful flowers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for confirming that Janneke, if this is in fact the case - there would be no point in me finding it an alternative home and just have to accept what happens to it.

      Delete
  4. Dear Angie, first I have to say this is really one amazingly beautiful camellia variety! I am growing a white flowering camellia variety ('Nuccio's gem') in my garden as well. It has been fine except this year where its flowers show the exact same problem that yours do. I blamed the ongoing drought and the extreme temperature differences between night and day this spring for the damaged blooms, even though we don't have any frost. My conclusion is that especially white flowering camellias are very sensitive to conditions that aren't "exactly right" for them and have kind of made my piece with it, assuming that we are having a bad year for camellias and hope for the best for next year.
    Other than you I haven't deadheaded the damaged flowers and it looks awful. Hopefully I find time in the next few days to finally get to do it.
    Warm regards,
    Christina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would be in agreement with you re drought Christina and had not realised you have such differences between night and day temperatures, although I should have known that really.
      Good luck with getting the dead heading done, done in small quantities it can be quite therapeutic.

      Delete
  5. I would agree with Sarah about envying your dilemma. I tried to grow a potted Camelia and I failed--even during the summer when it should have been fine. I think I had the wrong potting mix and/or wrong amount of water. Maybe the pot needed to drain more. Not exactly sure. I might try to grow one in a pot again. I absolutely LOVE them. But maybe I'll simply accept the fact that I'm in the wrong place to grow Camelias--even in a pot, that can come indoors during the winter. No, I can't give up that fast!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Water is vital in summer Beth and it's a case of just getting the right balance. In pots they would prefer an ericaceous compost so maybe you chose the wrong one. Good luck if you give another a go.

      Delete
  6. I'm so sorry that your camellia is doing this as you worked so hard to keep it alive and it is a gorgeous variety! Maybe this won't happen every year. You could avert your eyes when you walk by or perhaps drink the wine as Sarah suggested. I find that if I drink enough, I don't mind a few brown camellias.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I may just take up your challenge Peter :) I am confident it won't be a yearly event - I would have noticed it before now, I'm sure.

      Delete
  7. I've read that it isn't the frost that damages the camellia flowers, but the sun which thaws them out too quickly that does the damage. I have C. Jury's Yellow but it is in the woodland where it doesn't receive sun until afternoon and it doesn't have any problems. The camellia in the front garden does get early morning sun and the results are the same as yours, I hadn't realised that the sun would reach it at this time of year, so I just pick the brown blooms off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thawing out was always what I understood to be the reason for early sun Pauline. As I said above, I'm confident it 's only because of it's late flowering but we shall see. I would suspect that if I want to move it then next year might be my last chance before it gets too big at the roots. I will keep close eye next year on conditions. There could be room for a small tree in the corner but don't think it would provide enough shade from it's canopy at the right time. The trials and tribulations, eh!

      Delete
  8. It's a beautiful shrub, This year our camellia had two distinct flowering times, The side facing west flowered much earlier than the side facing north east.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Odd how the flowering time was split Sue but nice to enjoy it twice!

      Delete
  9. I do hope that you can solve your camellia conundrum Angie. Although my 'Jury's Yellow' is sadly no more I recall that the flowers are beautiful so it's a shame that some are not looking as good as you would expect. I hope that it's just a blip and that service will return to normal next year.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It looks gorgeous after deadheading Angie! I don't do Camellias as they don't like our soil - wish I did as they are drop dead gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love Jury's Yellow, what a beauty. My problem with many camellias is that they hold onto their dead brown flowers and ruin the look of the whole bush. The good news is that the Williamsii hybrids drop their spent blooms. As for frost damage, it seems to be worse on white and pale pink flowers with me. This Spring we have been lucky and had no April frosts to spoil the camellias and magnolias.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I can't grow camelias in this location, Angie, so can't help I'm afraid. I know the change in climate and weather is causing all sorts of strange happenings in my garden. Hope you figure it out. P. x

    ReplyDelete
  13. Interesting one Angie but I am sure life is far to short to be dead-heading Camellias. The science is interesting though, the idea of not exposing blooms to the morning sun is based on the assumption that a frost causes the water in the cells of the blooms to freeze and expand, a rapid thaw caused by early morning sun causes the cells to rupture and die, hence they go brown and perish. In the fruit growing areas, along with actually lighting fires in the orchards to protect the blossom, another method was to spray the trees with cold water at first light to slow down the thaw and protect the blossoms to ensure a fruit set, it seemed to work but I am not sure whether this is still done.

    ReplyDelete

Your comments are appreciated. My blog is currently experiencing issues with some readers reporting problems when posting their comments. Please bear with me whilst I try to rectify the problem.
I have temporarily switched on word verification. I apologise for this, personally, I don't like it either, I am hoping this may help.