Campbell River, British Columbia 
 Gardening in Campbell River

Garden Thoughts for December

I've been asked recently by two different people for a birthday present
suggestion to give to a gardening friend who needs plants. I answered with my standard answer: get a shrub or perennial that's in bloom on their birthday.

(This makes a great alternative to flowers for other occasions too, such as on the birth of a new baby. It can be a challenge to find pink
or blue flowers for every month of the year, but it can be done.)

My friend needed a shrub that would be in bloom in mid November, and I was able to suggest one of my favourite plants - Camellia sasanqua. Most of us are familiar with the spring blooming camellia - Camellia japonica. Some love it for the waxy rose-like flowers that cover the shiny evergreen leaves. Others despise it for the way the flowers age to an icky brown and cover the ground like used kleenex when they drop, especially if hit with a late frost.

Camellia sasanqua is the fall blooming camellia, and with it you get the best of both worlds. The shrub carries the usual glossy dark green leaves
year round, and makes an excellent backdrop for summer flowers, and a fine prop for the smaller late clematis. If the plant is grown in a sheltered
spot (and in Campbell River, that means out of the wind, with part shade) it will begin to unfurl its delicate blooms around Hallowe'en. These last
quite a while, and new blossoms continue to open until we get a severe cold snap - usually into January. Be warned though, in the past 8 years, the cold has twice come earlier than expected. Those years there may be no flowers at all, but the leaves alone make the plant worth enjoying.

I'm told that C. sasanqua is grown as a hedging plant in Australia. It'll get to 6-8' pretty quickly, but it takes to pruning quite happily, so can be kept to an attractive shape. It tends to be a bit more open and natural looking than the spring camellia, but maybe that's just because so many of those are pruned into puffballs.

I hope this gives you some ideas for next year's garden, and perhaps even some inspiration for holiday shopping.

Karen Barber is an architectural and landscape designer in Campbell River.

Her company is Madrona Design, which sponsors this Gardening in Campbell River webpage.

 Check out her site as she has added a discussion page to her website.
Like a BB where people can post questions etc. get there by clicking on the button below...

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