Camellia sasanqua hybrids
These shrubs or small trees originate from Japan. To begin with they are evergreen – clothed throughout the year in attractive, dark green, glossy foliage. Masses of blooms cover the plants from late summer through to the end of autumn. The first (primary) flush of flowers appear as terminal buds on the ends of each branch whilst the secondary flush appears as flowers set in the leaf axils along the length of the previous season’s growth. This interesting phenomenon helps to extend the flowering season to two or three months in succession. Certainly an awesome performance from such a large flowering shrub.
The individual blooms are described as being small in Camellia terms but nevertheless measure between 40 mm and 90 mm in diameter depending on variety, growing conditions and time of the year. Not only does the bloom size vary tremendously, relative to each named hybrid, so too does the shape, form and colour of the individual flower. Some flowers are simple; single with a few petals and a centre of prominent yellow stamens, whilst others are more complex, with a pompon-like shape comprising of petals and petaloids. Colours vary from white through shades of pink to dark rose and burgundy red. Many are fragrant.
Sasanqua Camellias grow in light, dappled shade to full sun and prefer loamy, well-drained soils rich in humus and leaf mould. They grow into dense shrubs and form effective hedges and screens that can either be clipped into formal styles or simply left to grow informally. They should be pruned back lightly in early spring before new growth starts. Older plants can be rejuvenated by pruning back severely in early spring to a height of 60 to 90 cm. This drastic action needs to be carried out every 8 to 10 years to keep the plants vigorous and productive. They grow in most climates around the country and are easier to grow than their larger flowered and more popular relatives, the Camellia japonica.
They are rewarding container plants for patios, either as bushes or trained into standards or lollipops. Their small leaves and tight, compact growth habit makes them ideal specimens for bonsai. Certain of the low growing hybrids with arching branches thrive in very large hanging baskets or suspended containers. The foliage is useful as a long lasting filler for the vase. Perhaps the most important fact of all is that all the numerous flower buds open into a perfect bloom every time, setting them in a rare class of their own. Every garden deserves at least one Sasanqua Camellia, irrespective of its size.