Winter’s Series spreads camellia joy to colder regions

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceNovember 28, 2013 

Hybrid camellias like Winter's Star and Winter's Joy offer exceptional cold hardiness and exquisite blooms.

MCT

If you have longed to grow camellias but fret because of cold weather, take heart: the Winter’s Series just may be your solution. These camellias hybridized by Dr. William Ackerman, a former research geneticist with the U.S. National Arboretum, have been in the marketplace for more than two decades, opening the door to passionate gardeners in zones 6b and 7 where camellia-growing had been a little riskier.

Varieties such as Winter’s Star and Winter’s Joy are in full bloom now in the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens along the Judge Arthur Solomon Camellia Trail. These and other camellias are proving once again that October and November can be an incredible season of blooming shrubs in the landscape if you have done your planning.

Whether it is radio, TV, newspaper or in person, I am always preaching the placement of the needed bones of the landscape. This structure is only accomplished by having an adequate portion of evergreen plant material. Camellias like the Winter’s Star and Winter’s Joy are prime examples. They have deep green, glossy leaves and yet also offer us weeks of terrific blooms.

The shrubs reach around 4 to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, a little large in the South. Winter’s Star and Winter’s Joy are recommended for zones 6b-10 and cold hardy to minus 15. Like all other camellias they require fertile well-drained acid soil.

If you’re intrigued, plan ahead: October is one of the best months for planting woody shrubs and trees, and by all means, camellias.

By planting then, you open the door for root growth to increase dramatically before next spring. Even though top growth may have ceased, roots will continue to develop in the cooler 40-to-50-degree days. When new leaf growth resumes in the spring, the root system will already be established and able to supply the plant’s requirements. In fact research indicates that planting now will give your plants almost a full growing season’s advantage over those planted next spring.

A canopy of trees high overhead allows just the right amount of light for vigorous healthy growth. It only makes sense that if we are going to make investment in the landscape, we need to do it right by putting our shrubs to bed. It is so sad to see a fine camellia placed in a location where it will be surrounded by turf.

Glossy leaves, hundreds of buds and blooms that attract pollinators of all sorts, including the long-tailed skipper butterfly, place these plants high on my list.

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