It’s time to prepare for the new gardening year, and let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day by bringing a touch of romance to the garden. The camellia has lovely blooms and shiny evergreen leaves. It is one of the few plants providing a big splash of late winter/early spring colour in the garden, with shades ranging from soft white through to pink and deep red.
Camellia varieties come in different sizes, so choose one to fit the space you have. They prefer a sheltered position with room to grow. Some will stay compact, making them ideal for a small space or to grow in a container. Grown in the right soil, camellias can flower reliably and rarely need pruning, which makes them one of our favourites.
Early flowering varieties of camellia are coming to life around now. You can plant them this month so long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. Camellias are woodland plants, which means they prefer shade or partial shade.
They are ericaceous so need to grow in an acid or lime-free soil. You can use a simple soil test kit available from Garsons to check your soil’s acidity/alkalinity (often called its pH). Add ericaceous compost to the planting hole if your soil isn’t acid enough. Alternatively, compact varieties of camellia grow well in large pots filled with ericaceous compost, available at the garden centre. They prefer rainwater to tap water and like to be watered well. Give them ericaceous feed in spring and early summer.
The camellia goes well with other hardy shrubs, flowering perennials and bulbs. Ground cover plants are a good choice. Azalea, crocus, cyclamen, snowdrops and tulips all make good companion plants for your camellia. If you plant one in a container, add smaller varieties of bulbs and seasonal bedding for extra interest.
Staying with the romantic theme, now is a good time for planting rose shrubs to establish them for the summer, so long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. There is a rose to suit every garden, from the dainty patio rose, to larger shrubs and climbing or rambling roses that can be trained up a support such as a trellis or arch.
Let’s hope the rain stays off so you can venture out in the garden during February. Until next month, stay safe and happy gardening.