Monday, December 13, 2010

Camellia "Pink Icicle"





This cold hardy camellia (to -20!) has compact, upright growth and lovely shell-pink, peony type flowers that begin in late November for us (the above photo was taken the day before Thanksgiving) and continue through late winter and early spring. It was developed by Bill Ackerman in 1987 from a cross between C. xwillimsii 'November Pink' x C. oleifera 'Lu Shan Snow'.

Long thought of as deep south shrubs, hardier camellias are now a reality thanks to breeding efforts by Bill Ackerman at the National Arboretum during the 80s. When devastating hard freezes hit the area in the late 70s, the Arboretum's huge camellia collection (around 900) was almost wiped out. They noticed that a c. oleifera species (later given the name i"Lu Shan Snow"), introduced in 1948 from northern China, stood up admirably to the cold temperatures. Seeking other varieties in the species, they found another one they called "Plain Jane" and set out to develop new varieties using these as parents. First new hybrids were developed from c. sasanqua and c. heimilis cultivars. Later, spring flowering parents from c. japonica and c. williamsi were crossed to produce more hybrids. 


Similar experiments were conducted in the 1960s by Clifford Parks at his nursery in Chapel Hill, N.C. and resulted in the "April" series of camellias that are available today.


Thanks to these experiments which are still going on, a wide selection of cold hardy camellias are available so that gardeners in upper south regions and even New England gardeners can appreciate these beautiful plants.


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

15 comments:

  1. Oh how I wish I could I could grow camellias. You really give me zone envy.

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  2. I always thought Carmelia's were pretty... but like you stated they mostly were thought to be grown in the south. Thank you for sharing this information so that those who leave in colder regions...

    ( I currently live Michigan) my have a shot at growing a few.

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  3. What a beauty! Thank you for sharing

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  4. I remember the winter of '76/77; the 33 acre lake that we lived on was frozen solid for a month. It's great that there are more cold hardy ones now.

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  5. Phillip,

    Thanks for sharing this info with us camellia lovers. I have one 'April' out in the garden. A little worried about the next two mornings 15 and 16 degrees!

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  6. I had 2 camelia's that a friend gave me as a house warming gift. Both tired to bloom in Dec-Jan and as a result never made it to the bloom stage as the cold killed the buds. I got a couple of early spring bloomers from Little Cypress, one a double red called Laura Walker
    and a white, red stripe one called Lady Vansittart.

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  7. OOoooo I am glad to know about this Camellia. I would like to give it a try.

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  8. Phillip, What a lovely camellia and in my favorite color! 'White By The Gate' has had a bad year and will need to be replaced~must find a pretty one to compliment the purple fence! gail

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  9. I am thankful to Clifford Parks and YOU! I will be sure to do my research to see if I can grow this hardy Camellia. I love them so! They were a part of my childhood. I always love seeing yours Phillip!

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  10. I would love to have camellias but they do not love our alkaline soil here in Central Texas and west. I will just enjoy your beautiful photos!

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  11. Oh my lands! Are you serious? I have been looking for a Camellia that would be hardy here in my zone 5b/6. I am so glad to hear about this one and will have to find one to plant next spring. I kept saying I was waiting on the grower to develop one that would grow here. LOL! Thanks for the information.

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  12. Unfortunately, Michigan can at times get below -20. :-(
    But it is beautiful!

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  13. I'll have to send that info to my cousin in southern Maine Phillip! That "pink icicle" sure is a beauty!

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  14. Are you flower lovers. Frankly I have never been such interest.

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