Japonica or japonica hybrids with exceptional bud hardiness

carolinamaryJanuary 26, 2010

Hello Folks,

We've had a few camellias in the yard for maybe 15-20 years, so I'm not brand new to camellias, but fairly new in terms of doing intensive reading and selecting of varieties.

I have Jennifer Trehane's wonderful book and have selected many, many camellias to wish for. The one thing that doesn't tend to get mentioned is how bud hardy a particular variety is. I imagine that kind of information is pretty hard to come by, as even in our own yard so much is speculation that needs long experience and comparison to be able to derive conclusions.

Still, I feel I can confidently proclaim Professor Sargent is an exceptionally bud hardy variety, whereas Debutante isn't. The official low here during that recent early January week or ten days of an exceptionally long cold wave of unusually low temperatures was 15 degrees several nights and 13 one night (though in our particular yard the low would have been a bit warmer than that). Anyway, within a week we had beautiful perfect blooms from more than one Professor Sargent, while at the same time there were a zillion buds on the Debutantes that had turned totally brown. We do get some Debutante flowers every year after some low temperatures, but nothing remotely in this range, and every year lose maybe 2/3 to 3/4 of the Debutante blooms (one year all, I think). I'm still grateful to have those Debutantes and wouldn't want to get rid of them, but I'm thinking that with a bunch of new purchases coming up now I ought to try to find out as much as is known about varieties that might excel in bud hardiness.

Do you have any varieties that you'd like to nominate (along with my Professor Sargent) on a japonica or japonica hybrid list as maybe being especially bud hardy? Thanks very much for any ideas.

Best wishes,


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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Where in zone 7 do you live?

I would recommend any of the Ackerman hybrids. Look up Cold-hardy varieties on the Camellia Forest website. These were bred for bud hardiness as well as plant hardiness.

One of my faves has always been Spring's Promise. It's blooming right now in fact. Temps in the low 20s will brown out the already open flowers, but buds proved hardy to zero degrees last season.

Here is a link that might be useful: Camellias at Camellia Forest Nursery

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 8:40AM
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Dear carolinamary,
Among the old, standard camellia varieties that Southerners have grown for generations, 'Daikagura' and 'September Morn,' aka 'Yohei Haku,' are among my favorites. They bloom early, weeks before our first average frost date, and are gorgeous. 'September Morn' will bloom as early as September and, in our yard, is a rose-form, creamy white japonica with a light yellow cast in its throat. 'Daikagura' is a peony-form japonica ranging from dark pink blotched white to solid light red. It has a pretty, light pink sport named 'High Hat.' Another excellent early japonica is 'Arejishi.' 'ejishi' is considered the earliest flowering _Camellia japonica_ of all. It can bloom as early as July and is finished blooming by December.

Among the old standard winter and spring blooming japonicas that do well for us are 'Lady Clare,' 'Governor Mouton,' 'Kumasaka,' 'Berenice Boddy', 'Donckelarii,' and its fimbriated form 'Ville de Nantes,' 'Magnoliaeflora,' 'Christine Lee,' 'Colonel Firey,' 'Finlandia,' 'Shiro Chan,' 'Ãhandleri Elegans,' 'Lady Vansittart,' 'The Reverend John Bennett,' and 'White Empress.' "Egao' and 'Shibori Egao,' which are classified as _Camellia vernalis_, are hard to beat for showy November bloom in Zone 7b.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:47AM
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We live on the outskirts of Charlotte, Dave. Our microclimate in this section of the yard is a bit more moderate than much of Charlotte, though, probably worth several degrees in the coldest winter lows. There's a small amount of wind protection from some nearby azaleas and huge rhododendrons and a slope for the coldest of the cold air to travel down. And heavy traffic on the nearby road to add a bit of warmer air. At least, that's what I keep telling myself when buying camellias that are officially designated for zone 8! We'll see, I guess. Today we got a very large (15-gallon) Kramer's Supreme. If even 1/3 of its buds make it in an average year, what an eyecatcher that one will be! Fingers crossed.

Thanks for the tip on Spring's Promise! I am absolutely in love with the peony and anemone forms of Japonicas but do have and plan to get some other types too. Thanks also for the mention of Ackerman hybrids in the context of bud hardiness. I knew they tended to be plant hardy, but this is additional reassurance if we can find some of those.

For sure, Camellia Forest will get some of our business; I have picked out about 30 varieties that I especially like there. The only problem there for now is that currently I'm especially looking for very large plants to fill in a fairly large area of our yard that got totally destroyed by a car coming off the road and riding through a 35 year-old rhododendron tree (yes, a rhododendron tree!) and many more things that were large and fairly old. So we've been investigating mostly locally to see what larger plants we can get first to quickly fill in some of the huge void there now.

We're working with a local nursery who has been checking with local wholesalers for good large plants, and having no luck with finding Ackerman hybrids thus far. But she has a list of maybe 15 Ackerman hybrids from me and maybe something will turn up. Otherwise, she is supposed to call CamToo tomorrow to see whether they might be willing to ship a more limited number of plants than what they've done with that grower in the past. The selection at Camtoo, just north of Greensboro, is pretty good and they do have some huge camellias on the several lists I've given her and am about to investigate further now. Fingers crossed here!

Jay, thanks so much for your extensive suggestions! It will take me awhile to investigate them all, but I'm just about to get started on that now. Right off the bat I see several that I had already put on the wish list, just based on book information earlier. We bought today a medium (7-gallon) sized Chandleri Elegans Variegated and the beauty of those blooms is breathtaking.

Arejishi is a gorgeous plant in every way, and the length of its bloom period makes it even more desirable. We don't have any camellias blooming for that long (or even close to that long). But all our camellias have had longer periods of bloom this year than ever before, thanks, I suppose, to the good and regular rainfall all during the year.

One of our sasanquas, in particular, bloomed heavily for about three months and for the first time was very noticeably fragrant. It's about 20 years old and I didn't save the tag (you know, there was a time when I couldn't have forgotten something like that!) though I think it was incorrectly labeled Hiryu. From book information, it's likely actually Hugh Evans, and a more desirable plant than I used to think when it was younger. The petals aren't in such a hurry to drop off the plant as many of our other sasanquas are and it's worthwhile to cut blooms for bringing inside.

Our local nursery found for us a nice large Kanjiro sasanqua this week and I'm expecting to buy it within a day or two. Its bloom period is described as "early to late" in the Trehane book, a long-blooming asset that is most appealing!

I also contacted Nuccio's Nursery earlier this week and a catalog should be in the mail to us now. I can hardly wait to get it! I only want a zillion camellias...

Jay and Dave, thanks to you both for helping me along in my wishful thinking! Please feel free to post more "exceptionally bud hardy" plant names in this thread, whenever those thoughts might occur; I'm sure I'm not the only one wishing for more information about that characteristic of camellias.

Best wishes,

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 12:17AM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

My only experience is with a rather small list of cultivars that were recommended by the Camellia Assoc. of the Potomac Valley (Ackerman is a member) -- and I'm trying out a few newer ones too. Since we are in the Northernmost reaches of the Camellia belt (some would say outside of it!), my options are more limited than yours! These are ones I'm 'testing' now. They have only been planted for a few years (new house for us) but have all seen temps in low single digits. Opened flowers will fry in 20s, but buds are much hardier.

Tama Americana

Spring's Promise

Ashton's Supreme

RL Wheeler var.

Winter's Joy

I have others that have not bloomed yet, so stay tuned! .. Berinice Boddy, Winter's Fire, April Tryst, Kumasaka, Betty Sette, Kuro Delight, Jerry Hill, ...

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 8:44AM
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Wow, Tama Americana is so pretty. It does not even look real.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 1:47PM
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Oh, Dave, those are extraordinarily beautiful plants! And pictures! As Kal said, they are so beautiful it's hard to believe they're real. (Nevertheless, I do believe they're real.)

I was just looking last night at the Potomac Camellia Society's website and thinking about the Ackerman hybrids. I can certainly see why you think highly of Spring's Promise! The entire plant, along with its prolific blooms is _gorgeous_! And all your others are beautiful, beautiful too.

You put me in the mood to snap a picture, and if I can get it loaded, I'm posting a picture that is only half on-topic for this thread. On topic for bud hardiness, but an hiemalis, not a japonica. Our Shishigashira started blooming here in mid-to-early October as best I can recall, and about a month ago we had the impression that it was done. No!!!

My husband cut a flower from the Shishigashira today! Bear in mind that we've had an extended cold period in early January here (at the same time you were experiencing the same cold wave) where the official low one night was 13 degrees and there were several nights in a row with lows close to that. This has set me to wondering how many other years it might have bloomed in mid-winter and we just didn't notice because we didn't walk where we might have seen it. The plant is mostly hidden now by much larger plants blocking a view from our usual vantage point. I planted it maybe 20 years ago, before so many azaleas got planted on one side of it. I did plant the (now huge) Hugh Evans at the same time on the other side of it, though, and now I'm wondering what I might have been thinking at the time and whether I knew then how differently the two camellias were going to grow. Oh, well! Now we'll just have to figure out how to transplant the camellia with those largish pots still attached for soil layering... ;)

Our Shishigashira is planted in too much shade. However, she has reliably bloomed heavily anyway! So it's a variety I'd recommend for your shady spots--or any spot. And apparently it is exceptionally bud hardy. It hasn't been gibbed, and has barely been fertilized at all (cottonseed meal once in awhile and mulch every fall from the tall deciduous trees it is growing with).

I'm going to see if it works to link the picture of Shishigashira that I just took. Dave, how did you embed your pictures? That would be ideal, of course.

Best wishes,

P.S. It's snowing here now, and sleet is probably on its way too. Glad we got the bloom picked first! It's brightening up the kitchen right now (Professor Sargent behind it).

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 6:37PM
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Yume and Bernice Boddy both had beautiful unharmed flowers open within a week of our 14 degree nights.
And those were the only 2 varieties out of 40 or so that opened that week. Lots of others have opened since but I would need to go look at the tags to know which ones.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2010 at 12:11AM
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Hi cweathersby,

Thanks so much for this! I'd love to see the whole list of those very bud hardy plants, if you can get around to making one.

By the way, I went to your GW page and looked at some of your plant listings; it looks as if we like a lot of the same roses. I'm having some trouble deciding which way to read the comments in some places, though: "Grandpa Dickson -died Gruss an Aachen". You mean Grandpa Dickson died, right? I have 3 Gruss An Aachens and they are making it through their first winter right now. (I hope! It has been an unusually tough winter thus far.) We're going on the second year with roses here now.

Best wishes,

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 5:50PM
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Actually both have died! Need to update my list cause I've gotten lots of new roses since then. Grandpa Dixon just wasn't healthy- most HTs aren't in my no spray garden. Gruss just up and died out of the blue.
I looked around and lots of my buds made it through the freeze but haven't bloomed yet. I'll make a list Friday. Prof Sargent looks gorgeous even after the hard freeze.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 12:23AM
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Finally getting around to posting this list. Many of my camellias came from Camellia Forest, and I asked specifically for bud hardiness and a Jan Feb bloom time. Not bud hardy- Tomorrow, Christmas Beauty, Adeyaka, Barbara Clark. Bud hardy- many with open blooms right now- Shi Shi Gashira, Unryu, Gov Mouton, April Kiss, Willi Hite, Egao, October Affair, Koto No Kaori, Sweet Jane, Christmas Rose, Japanese Fantasy, Takani, Ryuko, Crimson Candles. But the best bud were Yume, Bernice Boddy and Prof Sargent

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 10:54PM
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October Affair just opened all the buds at once and they are BEAUTIFUL!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 3:36PM
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I appreciate so much your trouble in making this list, Cweathersby! I'm still wishing for a zillion camellias, so your information will go onto my list too.

Did your October Affair have some blooming in the fall too?

Our Shishigashira bloomed here in January, just after a long period of extreme cold, and then again in February, just after a second long period of extreme cold (a couple of nights around 11 and 12 degrees). So that one is really exceptionally bud hardy for both of us.

Our Professor Sargents have smiled at the low temperatures all winter long and given us beautiful flowers regularly. That's a good one for sure!

On a different topic, I'm sorry that your Grüss An Aachen died. Mine are still doing all right, as far as I can tell. All our roses are beginning to flush out now, and there was almost no winter damage to any canes, though a couple of the roses (all new ownroots last year) have decided to put on a *lot* of thorns: Julia Child and Cinco De Mayo. I love both those blooms, but am thinking that cuttings are going to be much more difficult to accomplish this year, with all those thorns.

Best wishes,

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 2:04PM
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this is a little late but some additional varieties that I find bud hardy are Nuccios Gem ,Nuccios Pearl,Jacks.Pink
Icecycle,April Remembered,Lady Van Sittart,pink perfection and anything in the "Winter's " series

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 6:24PM
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Thanks so much, Johnnie. I almost just bought two Nuccio's Pearls but ended up with 2 Nuccio's Jewels instead. Maybe they have some of the same characteristics? That would be nice!

I was posting earlier about Debutante vs. Professor Sargent, and here's some additional information. Though Debutante is much less bud hardy than Professor Sargent, apparently if the buds are tight enough, they can manage to survive. We've had a couple of Debutante buds open recently that weren't killed. So many buds had been killed on our Debutantes that we didn't even notice these remaining buds when I was posting earlier.

Except for Debutante, we've had, by far, the best blooming year for camellias that we've ever had. So I think that if camellias encounter sustained winter cold that's fairly low in the temperature range, as long as that cold keeps up consistently, it still works out fine. Perhaps others all along the East Coast are finding that too, as long as their very lowest temps didn't go too terribly low? Ours got down to what was officially 11 degrees, another at 12, several at 13, and a ton of nights in the teens... overall, the coldest winter here since that extraordinarily cold record-setting year back in the 1980's. But except for Debutante our camellias did especially well this year!

I also think that the unusually wet rainy year last year was really good for camellias (ours are all planted with sufficient drainage). They probably entered that really cold winter in wonderful shape overall. Some of ours were planted too close to a large tree in too much shade and with too much competition with tree roots. They've always bloomed, but nothing close to what they are capable of. This year, however, they have been literally covered in blooms, the best they've ever done! No doubt it helps some to get good rainfall in the summer when they're trying to make buds. ;D

The camellia mid and late season blooming period might have been delayed this year, but it's going beautifully, beautifully here now! I hope yours are doing well too, Johnnie!

Best wishes,

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 5:03PM
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