Camellias in the garden
The Camellias belong to the theacee, there are about a dozen species, among which only some are cultivated as ornamental plants; for centuries cultivated in Europe, in reality the Camellias come from Asia, and in particular from China, Japan and Korea. These are medium to large shrubs, ranging from a meter up to 4-5 meters if they are in the best pedoclimatic conditions; camellias are evergreen, foliage is dark green, bright, oval. The camellias are grown for their flowering, the large rosy-colored buds, similar to large roses, are much appreciated, and many are the hybrids now widespread in the garden.
The most widespread species as ornamental plants are the Camellia japonica and its hybrids; it is a medium-sized shrub with a pinkish bloom, with a simple flower, double or stradado, depending on the variety. The flowers of camellia japonica they bloom at the end of winter, if the season is particularly hot they can flower already in January, if instead the climate is very rigid we will have a later flowering, around April or even May. To obtain a luxuriant and healthy shrub it is necessary to cultivate the camellia in the garden, in full earth or in pot, using a specific soil for acidophilic plants, since they have difficulty using the iron present in the soil, especially if the presence of calcium is high, or if the water supplied is very calcareous.
They are placed in a partially shaded place, because the very intense direct insolation causes the leaves to dry up; moreover, camellias love a fairly humid climate, so excessive sun can excessively dry the air. In most Italian regions the camellia japonica it can be grown in the garden throughout the year, provided you keep it away from the winter wind; in regions with winters below -10 / -15 ° C it is advisable to grow these plants in large pots, so that they can be sheltered during the colder weeks of the year.
The watering will be very regular, from March to October, keeping the soil always quite humid, but not soaked with water; during the cold months the waterings will be sporadic: only in the case of very prolonged drought.
Generally these shrubs have a rounded harmonious development, without the need for pruning; but if we need to shorten the thin branches let's do it after flowering, to avoid losing the most interesting part of the plant.
If the winter is very stiff it may happen that the buds tend to be damaged due to frost, before they even bloom, in this case it is good to remove the already damaged buds and cover the plant with non-woven fabric, in order to preserve the flowers from the cold intense.
Often camellia flowers, especially those of hybrids, tend to rot instead of withering; remember to remove them promptly, to prevent them from becoming vehicles of fungal diseases, which develop easily on rotting tissues.
Camellia cultivation - Camellia japonica: Other camellias
In the garden it is also widespread the cultivation of camellia sasanqua, winter flowering, which sometimes blooms also in November-December, depends on the climate; this camellia, however, has much smaller flowers than the garden hybrids of C. japonica. Certainly the winter bloom makes them very interesting, especially in the gardens of central-northern Italy, which in winter are very bare and gray.
In Italy, Camellia hiemalis is also cultivated, another camellia with early flowering, its flowers bloom in full winter; of this camellia there are many hybrids, even with large and showy flowers.
Another camellia widespread in cultivation, but not as an ornamental plant, is the camellia sinensis; it is the plant whose leaves are used to produce tea. These plants are of Chinese and Japanese origin, are now also cultivated in India, in large plantations; young leaves are used to produce tea. The simply dried leaves are called green tea, much appreciated especially in Japan; with the leaves subjected to fermentation and drying, black tea is prepared instead; the leaves subjected to a slight fermentation are instead used for tea oolong.
Sometimes the leaves of other camellia species are also used in Asia to prepare tea. The cultivation of camellia sinensis is very extensive, since all the tea used in the way comes from Asia; there are also camellias from which seeds are extracted an edible oil, widely used in China.