Whilst the garden is dreaming in its winter sleep, camellias with their abundant play of colours and shapes captivate us in their spell.
Inspiring and sumptuous
Camellia japonica, to give it its Latin name, is a symbol of immortality. Empress Josephine of France lead the trend for camellias and to this day it is the emblem and favourite flower of Coco Chanel. Its charming flowers, which are reminiscent of wild roses, have inspired authors, composers and painters: Alexandre Dumas' novel ' The Lady of the Camellias' triggered a boom in camellias in France in the 19th century. Giuseppe Verdi too, who composed the story of the courtesans whose emblem was the camellia in his opera 'La Traviata' was not entirely blameless in spreading the global reputation of this exotic flower. The plant was named after the Jesuit missionary Camel, who described its beauty in detail in his letters.
All camellias belong to the Theaceae family of flowering plants. Camellia sinensis (tea plant) is the best known, along with the ornamental species camellia japonica. It is no wonder, then, that the British had their eye on its valuable leaves in the middle of the 18th century when they imported large quantities of tea from China - probably in an effort to break the Chinese monopoly on tea and to cultivate their subsequent national drink themselves. They bribed the Chinese for this purpose, but the Chinese outsmarted the English traders by selling them the ornamental species, Camellia japonica, instead of the tea plant.
Winter roses for the garden and patio
These evergreen Asian beauties have grown in their East Asian home for over 1,000 years in well-lit mountain forests close to the sea. Sometimes they can be found at a height of up to 3,000 metres where hot and humid summers alternate with freezing, snowy winters. Challenging and awkward to look after? Not necessarily! In the right environment they can last a very long time and get more and more beautiful as they age. These plants feel most comfortable in a light, shady position in the garden in humus-rich, porous soil. In winter they should be protected from hoar frost and sunny conditions with bamboo or fleece. Camellias in tubs can even tolerate night frosts of down to - 5°C. If the weather gets more unpleasant, they need to be brought indoors in order to be able to develop their abundant flowers at a feel-good temperature of between 5 and 10 °C, high atmospheric humidity and plenty of light.