Well, Spring has officially sprung and the long hard Winter is over, even though I accept that we have it much easier than some other areas inland or at lower latitudes and higher altitudes! The frosts are pretty persistent though, especially this last Winter!!
To celebrate the demise of Winter, I have written two posts about a few gardens worth visiting next Winter! Last June, we headed north to see my mum in Queensland, so we wanted to visit a few bucket-list gardens along the way, particularly those who shone in Winter!
Here in Australia, they include camellia gardens and those devoted to Australian and South African natives. While July is probably the peak time to view camellias, it is also school holiday time with accommodation in short supply and lots of holidaymakers, so we decided to travel in June and take our chances and we were not disappointed! This week, I am featuring two very special camellia gardens, while next week, we will visit two native gardens.
EG Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens
104 President Avenue Caringbah South NSW 2229
Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm; Weekends and Public holidays 9.30am to 5 pm.
Closed on Good Friday; Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Named after Professor Eben Gowrie Waterhouse (1881-1977), an international camellia expert and linguist, who was the first President of the International Camellia Society in 1962, this 2 hectare camellia garden was opened in July 1970. It was a Bicentenary project of the Sutherland Shire Council to commemorate the landing of Captain James Cook at Kurnell in 1770.It was established on the site of the old Matson Pleasure Grounds, a recreational complex, which was developed by Frederick Francis Matson in 1902 on the shores of Ewey (now Yowie) Bay and hosted many picnics, dances and boating events until its closure in World War One.We parked on President Avenue and entered from the top of the gardens, but they can also be accessed via a lower gate and parking area off Kareena Rd. It was a wet day, but fortunately we were able to wander round the garden between showers, even enjoying some welcome Winter sunshine, before retreating to the tea house with the next downpour! The Devonshire tea and scones were an added bonus!Outside the tea room is a fountain dedicated to Captain Cook’s wife Elizabeth (1742-1835), who is often in the shadows, so it was great to learn a little about her life. She certainly was a stayer! I was amazed to read that she really only spent 4 years of her married life of 17 years with Cook and that she outlasted him by 56 years, dying at the age of 93 on 13 May 1835. She also outlasted all her six children, including two of which died in infancy, with her last surviving son dying in 1794.
She would have seen so many changes in her lifetime from the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites at Culloden in 1746; the Seven Years War between Britain and France from 1756 to 1763; the Boston Tea Party 1773 and the American War of Independence 1775 to 1783; the storming of the Bastille in Paris and the French Revolution in July 1789; the Battle of Trafalgar 1805 and the Battle of Waterloo 1815; and the reigns of Mad King George (George 111) and his sons George IV 1820 and William IV 1830. It was also the age of slavery and its eventual abolition; the start of the Industrial Revolution (1760 to 1820) and the development of the first railway between Stockton and Darlington in 1825; and the start of Australia’s colonial history with the first fleet of convicts arriving in May 1787.But back to the camellias! There are over 600 camellias in the garden with over 450 individual species and cultivars, which can also be seen in the digital catalogue on the Camellias Australia website, as well as in a register kept at Sutherland Library. See: http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/gardens/e-g-waterhouse-national-camellia-gardens/.
In March 2014, the gardens were awarded the International Camellia Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society and they are only one of forty such gardens in the world and the only one in New South Wales. See: https://internationalcamellia.org/about-this-programme.
While we were a little early for the full spectacular display, we still saw a number of them in flower. The camellia season starts in Autumn with the blooming of Camellia sasanqua (Autumn to early Winter), followed by Camellia japonica varieties from late Autumn to Winter and Camellia reticulata from midwinter to September/ October.
They are in turn followed by Spring annuals, then roses during the Summer months. Paths meander through the garden, leading to lush lawns, a creek and two duck ponds. It really is a lovely small garden and is popular with picnickers and wedding parties.If you love camellias and your appetite still needs satisfying, then a visit to the old home of the great man himself is essential!
Eryldene Historic Home and Garden
17 McIntosh Street Gordon NSW 2072
Ph (02) 9498 2271
Open every second weekend from April to September from 10am to 4pm.
Adults $12; Children (6 to 16 years) $5; Family (2 adults and 2 children) $30; Concession (Seniors and students) $10; Eryldene and National Trust members Free.
This is the camellia lovers’ mecca! We adored this garden for its camellias naturally, but also its history, architecture and oriental aesthetics. Built for Gowrie and Janet Waterhouse in 1914 in collaboration with neo-colonial architect William Hardy Wilson, ‘Eryldene’ was named after Janet Waterhouse’s family home in Kilmarnock, Scotland. It is a beautiful house and guided tours are conducted on the hour, but again because of the rain, we explored the garden first up!The one-acre garden is a series of garden rooms, which contain a number of delightful architectural features including a temple, built from six recycled ionic columns, and flanked by two specimens of the camellia, La Pace Rubra, both planted back in 1914 ; an outdoor study, the professor’s retreat from the hectic bedlam of four boisterous sons; a walled fountain; a Georgian-style pigeon house with a gilded tympanum; a Moon Gate and tennis court; an oriental Tea House with gold-tipped vermilion flagpoles for blue and red dragon flags; a meditation garden with a sculptured rock pool and a Georgian-style timber screen.There are also many beautiful large old camellias, as well as Japanese maples, azaleas and rhododendrons, datura and windflowers.
During our visit, I discovered that apparently, camellias had fallen out of favour at the end of the 19th Century. Nevertheless, Professor Waterhouse still planted six camellias in 1914, four of which still survive today: two specimens of La Pace Rubra at the entrance to the Temple and a Contessa Collini and Iris either side of the front gate. By the time of his death in 1977, aged 97, he had collected 700 camellias, many growing in tubs.In between exploring the garden and the old house, we enjoyed a cuppa in the one of the two loggias, originally the boys’ bedrooms. Mrs Waterhouse was a strong believer in the health benefits of bracing cold fresh air!Eryledene is listed on the National Estate and the NSW Heritage Register and it is worth reading the following website for more detail about the property: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5045350.
Camellias are indispensable to the Winter garden and bloom generously from late Autumn through to mid Spring. They are long-lived, evergreen ornamental shrubs and small trees (up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide) with glossy, dark green leaves.Their blooms exhibit great variability in :
Colour: Pure white to deep dark red; Bicolour combinations
Size: Miniature: less than 6cm; Small: 6-7.5 cm; Medium: 7.5-9cm; Medium-Large: 9-10cm; Large: 10-12.5cm; and Very Large: more than 12.5cm; and
Flowering period (these times refer to Australia and Southern Hemisphere):
Early: Autumn: March to June; Mid: Autumn to Winter:Mid June to August; Late: Winter to Spring: Late August to October.My only reservation about these beautiful flowers is that most of them have no scent, but I have named a few fragrant varieties later on! Despite that, it doesn’t seem to worry the bees! The fruit of the camellia is a globe-shaped capsule with 3 compartments (locules), each with 1-2 large brown seeds.
We were lucky enough to inherit a huge old camellia tree right at our entrance and its white, pale pink, striped pink and deep pink double blooms sustain our spirits all Winter. They look beautiful against the dark green foliage and their fallen blooms form an attractive carpet underneath, interspersed with violets and hellebores. Their seeds strike well, producing many tiny seedlings beneath the parent plant. Up until now, I went along with the suggestion that it was a multi-graft camellia, since it bears flowers of a number of different colour combinations, but during my research for this post, I came across an article (www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/australia-s-first-camellia) by Graham Ross about an early Australian variety: C.japonica ‘Aspasia Macarthur’, which also throws blooms of a number of different colours. It has flowers of variable colour from a pale flesh or cream colour with pinkish/ red splashes, reverting to pure pink and pure red flowers. It also has a number of sports including ‘Lady Loch’ 1889, which has medium to large pale pink peony flowers, and ‘Otahuhu Beauty’ 1904 with medium informal double rose pink blooms. For photos of all the sports, see : http://www.camellias.pics/mutations-gb.php?langue=gb#ANC-ID1106 and https://humecamellia.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/850/ . I have strong suspicions that my old plant might be ‘Aspasia Macarthur’ or at least related to it, as its flowers are very similar to all of these varieties. Graham Ross states that his plant dates from 1920 and our plant could well be the same, as our house was built in 1925. There is also a useful site for camellia identification: www.camellias.pics/index-gb.php?langue=gb, though I was a bit confused as to which flower to include in their search facility!I have also planted some new camellia plants along the fence line:
C.vernalis ‘Star above Star’ : I first saw this beautiful camellia at my friend’s place at Black Mountain, NSW (1st photo below) and on the way home, I found a plant at a nursery. It has just bloomed for the first time, its creamy-pink bloom ageing to a lolly-pink (2nd and 3rd photos below);
C.japonica ‘Nuccio’s Gem’: I was thrilled to discover a tiny specimen at our local hardware store, as its exquisite, formal double white flower has always been a favourite of mine;
And C.japonica ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ : It has had a number of eye-catching, pretty, pure red formal double blooms this year.Camellias belong to the order Ericales, which includes azaleas and blueberries, and the family Theaceae, which also contains Stewartia and Gordonia, all plants having serrated glossy leaves (mostly evergreen), flowers with multi-stamens and fruit in capsules or seedpods. The genus Camellia, named after the Jesuit priest and botanist, George Kamel (1661-1706), has between 200 and 300 species. Here are some brief notes about some of the main species:
The most famous species is Camellia japonica, from which thousands of cultivars have been developed. It hails from the forests of Japan, as well as China and South Korea (300-1100m altitude), where it is pollinated by the Japanese White Eye bird (Zosterops japonica). It grows best in partial shade.Camellia sasanqua is also very well-known. It is a smaller shrub with denser, smaller, rounded foliage and smaller flowers with a similar form and colour to the Japonicas. Unlike the blooms of the latter, which fall intact, sasanqua flowers shatter on impact, carpeting the ground below with petals rather than flowers. They also tolerate more sun than C.japonica, ‘sasanqua’ being the Japanese word for ‘sun’. Sasanquas are native to Southern Japan and the Liu Kiu Islands.Camellia vernalis is a cross between C.japonica and C.sasanqua and its blooms do not shatter easily like the sasanquas.‘Star above Star’ is an example.Camellia reticulata is also grown as an ornamental shrub in many gardens and has larger, showy flowers and leaves with distinct veins. It also tolerate a fair amount of sun. There are a number of hybrids, which have been produced by crosses between C.reticulata and C.japonica/ C.sasanqua.
Camellia sinesis, from China (as well as Japan and the rest of South East Asia), is a very important commercial plant, as it is the source of all our black and green tea and Camelliaoleifera is harvested for its oil, which is used in cooking and cosmetics. I have just bought a plant of C.sinensis at our local hardware store for its lovely little white flowers and novelty value, as well as in deference to our family’s huge consumption of tea! It has very small, simple, semi-fragrant , white flowers with a boss of gold stamens from late Summer to early Autumn. Bees and butterflies love the flowers, while humans prefer the leaves! Tea leaves were used as medicine in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE) and have been consumed as a beverage since the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE). In green tea, the leaves are dried and steamed, while in black tea, the leaves are dried and fermented. We enjoyed an informative visit to the Nerada Tea plantation on the Atherton Tableland, Queensland. (http://www.neradatea.com.au) in 2008. We learnt that C.sinensis can reach a height of 5-10 m if left untrimmed (see old tree in the first photo below) and that it takes up to 7 years before the leaves can be harvested for tea, after which the plant will produce leaves for tea for 100 years! We also had a guided tour of the processing factory (2nd photo below).Other species have smaller leaves and miniature flowers and a few are even scented like C.lutchuensis, C.transnokoensis, C.fraterna; C.kissi; C.yuhsienensis and C.grijsii. The japonica cultivar ‘Kramer’s Supreme’ is slightly fragrant, while the fragrance of the sasanqua cultivar ‘Daydream’ is more intense, but not sweet. Other fragrant hybrids, using C.fraterna, C.yuhsienensis and C.grijsii as breeding stock, include : ‘ Cinammon Cindy’; ‘Cinammon Scentsation’; ‘Fragrant Joy’; ‘Fragrant Pink’; ‘Helen B’; ‘Hallstone Spicy’; ‘High Fragrance’; ‘Sweet Emily Kate’ and ‘Scentuous’.
Camellias originated in Eastern and Southern Asia from the Himalayas to Japan and Indonesia. Camellia japonica was portrayed in 11th Century Chinese porcelain and paintings, usually as a single red bloom. The oldest camellia in the world, at the Panlong Monastery in China, dates from 1347. The camellia was introduced to the West by the Dutch East India Company surgeon, Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), who discovered them while in Japan. On his return, he described the details of more than 30 varieties. The oldest camellia trees in Europe were planted at the end of the 16th century at Campobello, Portugal.
The first camellias in Australia were planted by Alexander Macleay in 1826 at Elizabeth Bay House. The history of the camellia in Australia is recounted in http://www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/australia-s-first-camellia. One of the early pioneers was the Waratah Camellia, C.japonica ‘Anemoniflora’, planted in the Sydney Botanic Garden in 1828 and by William Macarthur in 1831 at Camden Park Estate to be used in his breeding program. Other varieties imported in the same 1831 shipment were: ‘Alba Plena’, ‘Camura’ (Syn.’Incamata’) ‘Myrtifolia’, ‘Rubra’ and ‘Welbankiana’. In 1850, Macarthur listed 62 hand-bred varieties, the first of which was C.japonica ‘Aspasia’ or ‘Aspasia Macarthur’, as it is now known. By 1883, the leading nursery in Australia, Shepherd and Company, listed 160 varieties of C.japonica, but by 1891, the number of varieties had dropped to 53 and in 1916 to 16.
The revival of the camellia industry in Australia owes an enormous debt to Professor EG Waterhouse, a world authority on camellias,who researched and wrote 2 books about these lovely plants and propagated them between 1914-1977 at his home ‘Eryldene’ (17 McIntosh St Gordon, North Sydney) and nursery, Camellia Grove Nursery, based at St. Ives from 1939 to 2004 and now at Glenorie, 8 Cattai Ridge Rd., Glenorie (http://www.camelliagrove.com.au/). ‘Eryldene’, an Art Deco house built in 1914, is listed on the National Estate and the NSW Heritage Register and is open to the public on selected weekends during Winter. The next open day is 13th and 14th August 2016. See: http://www.eryldene.org.au/ for dates and further information.
All the states have their own camellia societies, affiliated under an umbrella association called Camellias Australia Inc.(See their website: http://camelliasaustralia.com.au). It also hosts a project called the Camellia Ark, set up to conserve some of the very rare early species in Australia, which are now disappearing. It includes 75 endangered cultivars and species and can be accessed at : http://camelliasaustralia.com.au/gardens/camellia-ark/.Camellias are best selected when in bloom. They should be planted (and transplanted) during Autumn and Winter. Their ideal site is:
Partial shade. Full shade reduces the amount of flowering, while full sun will burn the foliage; White and light pink varieties prefer more shade; C.sasanqua and C.reticulata will tolerate more sun than C.japonica.
Organic, slightly acidic (pH 6-6.5), semi-moist but well-drained soil.
The site should be prepared prior to planting with generous amounts of peat moss, compost or old manure mixed in with the soil. The hole should be twice the diameter of the root ball and 1½ times the depth. The planting depth is critical, otherwise if the root ball is set too deep, the plant may refuse to bloom. Plant, so that the root ball is 1 inch above the existing soil level to allow for settling. Water heavily and keep well-watered until the plant is established. A thick layer (2-3 inches) of mulch (leaf mould or shredded bark) will help to retain moisture. Having said that, make sure the soil is well-drained, as camellias hate wet feet, as too much water results in root rot.
Camellias are very easy, minimal care plants, which seldom require pruning, except for weak, spindly, or dead branches. For a more upright growth, the inner branches can be thinned out and the lower limbs shortened. If you must prune, do it immediately after the blooms fade or in mid Summer. They are not heavy feeders, but if growth is weak or the leaves are yellowing, a slow release Azalea and Camellia Fertilizer can be applied sparingly around the drip line of the plant in December, after which the plant should be watered well. Avoid the use of mushroom compost, fresh chook manure and lime (all too alkaline). A few handfuls of sulphate of potash can be beneficial just before flowering.Diseases are mainly fungal and algal, including;
Spot Disease – round spots and upper side of leaves silvery, leading to loss of leaves
Flower Blight – flowers brown and fall
Canker – caused by fungus Glomerella cingulata, which attacks through wounds.
Physiological diseases include:
Salt Injury – high levels of salt in soil
Chlorosis – insufficient acidity in soil prevents the absorption of essential soil elements
Bud Drop – loss and decay of buds due to over-watering, high temperatures and potbound roots
Bud Balling – treat with 2 tsp Epsom salts to 10 litres water; a good feed of Azalea and Camellia fertilizer or move to a different place.
Camellias can also suffer from oedema and sunburn.
Pests include :
Fuller rose beetle Pantomorus cervinus
Mealy bugs Planococcus citri and Planococcus longispinus
Weevils Otiorhyncus slacatus and Otiothyncus ovatus and
Tea Scale Fiorinia theae
Camellias can be propagated by :
Seed: Hybrid plants may be sterile; Seed is not necessarily true to its parentage; Seeds should be soaked in warm water for 24 hours and sown indoors in Spring and Fall in a 70-75 degree growing medium until germination (within 1-2 months). Our old camellia does not seem to have any trouble producing seedlings under its skirt, without any help from us!
Softwood cuttings: From new growth in early Summer, but is a slow process; Each cutting should have more than 5 nodes; Remove the lowest leaves and trim the other leaves by half. Insert into a mix of sand and peat moss.
Camellias are lovely specimen plants and can also be planted as massed plantings and in mixed borders. Sasanqua camellias planted close together make great hedges and screens. They can be espaliered and trellised, as well as grown in containers and planters on patios, porches, pathways and gazebos. They can even be used in bonsai and topiary or grown as standards.They are the food plant of some Lepidoptera, including the Engrailed Ectropis, Crepuscularia. In China, camellias are lucky symbols, exchanged as gifts during the Chinese New Year (their Spring), and promising prosperity and a long life. They also have a superstition that Chinese women should never wear a camellia in their hair or they won’t be able to bear sons for a long time. In the language of flowers, a white camellia means ‘exquisite loveliness’, while a red camellia means ‘unpretentious excellence’.Camellia foliage is used in floristry as a filler. I like to float their flower heads in a shallow bowl of water, though I use a pottery bowl these days! I once had a lovely glass shallow bowl, but it had a small lip, which led to its downfall and a very memorable dinner party! Filled with floating flowers and tea lights, the candles floated under the edge of the lip and started to heat the glass. I dismissed a small ‘ping’, only to have the whole bowl literally explode a few minutes later, the water pouring all over and even through the dinner table! Very dramatic and certainly a conversation stopper! These are my latest camellia blooms. They can also be used in corsages, wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths. Care should be taken when handling the flowers, as they bruise and brown easily. Flowers last 5-7 days in floral work and may need wiring. Preservative is optional. Here is a photo of a beautiful vase of ‘Star above Star’ in our bedroom, when we visited out friends in Black Mountain. Thank you, Jane xxx
For more information on camellias, which you can enjoy over a pot of China Tea, please see: https://simplebooklet.com/camelliaquide.