Camellias are a very popular winter- and spring-flowering shrub, offering splashes of colour at a time when few flowers are in bloom.
They were first found in Asia (east & south), and are revered from the Himalayas to Japan and over to Indonesia. There are some 100–250 recorded species. Linnaeus named the genus after the Czech Jesuit botanist George Joseph Kamel.
Camellia has no fragrance ?
Loved for their masses of superb blooms and their lush, evergreen foliage, Camellias are, beyond question, a standout amongst the most alluring plants to develop.
Blossoming for a considerable length of time during autumn to spring (depending the variety and climate), they delight us with their stunning flowers in a variety of shapes and colours, at a time of the year when our gardens lack in colour.
Leaves of the Camellia Sinensis blooms are used to make the finest tea and Camellia Sasanqua is equally used to make in Japan.
By pressing the seeds of Camellia Oleifera and Camellia Japonica a sweet seasoning and cooking oil is produced, which a popular oil for cooking in Southern China.
Hence, it is surprising that an oil extracted from Camellia does not produce a pleasant perfume oil for use in fragrances. All scents with camellia are essentially ‘fantasy notes’ build around the beauty of camellia as a concept rather than its fragrance.
There are exceptions though and here are the three most common fragrant varieties:
- Camellia Lutchuensis: the most scented species. Early in the 1960s, breeders created varieties that incorporated its fragrances leading to a number of hybrids that treat our senses with colour and perfume. The weakness of these is that they have less blooms and evergreen leaves.
- Camellia Sasanquas: has some fragrance and blooms in the autumn (single and double blooms). Sadly, the flowers only last a few days.
- Camellia Japonica: a variety of cultivars also have a scent.
Here in London, blooming camellias can be admired at various times throughout the year in the following places:
- Chiswick House
- Great Windsor Park & Savill Gardens
At Chiswick House one can admire a collection of camellias which is widely regarded as one of the finest. In the restored conservatory is the oldest collection of camellias in Britain in a variety of colours: white, pink, red and striped.
The collection includes 33 different varieties, amongst which are some of the earliest varieties brought to Britain in 1828. One of these varieties is the unique camellia ‘Middlemist’s Red’, originally introduced to Britain in 1804 from China by John Middlemist, a botanist from Shepherds Bush in London. It is one of only two in the world.
Great Windsor Park & Savill Gardens
During Spring both gardens, Windsor Park & Savill Gardens, show their best side with beautiful, colourful displays of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias.
In July, a rare Chinese tree (Cladrastis Sinensis) within the New Camellia Garden, produces white-pink flowers. The New Camellia Garden is located within Great Windsor Park, close to Virginia Water lake.
When autumn turns to winter, the early blooming camellias are a delight with their bright flowers.