Fabulous Camellias for Northern Gardens: Autumn Flowering Sasanquas

Camellia lovers, no need to envy Scarlett O’Hara her camellia friendly, hot, sultry, climate.  Thanks to the breeding efforts of Clifford Parks, William L. Ackerman, and others, we now have an extraordinary selection of beautiful, winter-hardy, evergreen camellias available for northern gardens.  I am particularly fond of Fall blooming sasanquas that defy cold, frosty conditions and grace my garden with a profusion of flowers (often fragrant) when little else is in bloom.

Consider my three favorites:

C. x ‘Survivor’ lives up to its name and then some.  It has survived  -9 degrees F. without injury.   A sasanqua and oleifera hybrid, ‘Survivor’ blooms for months, displaying an abundance of small, single, white fragrant flowers from pink buds.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Another snowy-white flowering lovely, C. sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’, has large, fragrant, semi-double flowers, pink buds, a long bloom period, and particularly nice dark-green foliage.

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

Pretty in pale pink, C. sasanqua ‘Jean May’, flaunts her showy, fragrant, multi-petaled blossoms from September until winter’s hard frost.

copyright 2012  -  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2012 – Lois Sheinfeld

All three recently suffered thru a brutal October-November assault from Hurricane Sandy and a nor’easter, with no ill effect to bloom or to foliage.  (Would that my other plants had fared as well.)

Camellias prefer well-drained acid soil rich in organic matter; composted leaf mulch would be a welcome additive.  Apart from this basic rule, here are a few additional time-tested culture tips for Northern gardens:

First, the best time to plant is in the Spring, between mid April and late May, so the camellias have time to establish before their first winter.  Fall planting may be ideal for the South, but too risky for Yankee gardeners.

Second, the best location for camellias is a north or northwest exposure with protection from wind; exposure to early morning winter sun can cause leaf burn or even death.

These essential culture tips and much more practical information can be found in the book, Beyond the Camellia Belt, by the noted cold-hardy camellia breeder, William L. Ackerman.  A must-have reference.

I purchased my dazzling trio from Camellia Forest Nursery.  (See Links).