Camellias

The Friends have provided £1000 to be spent on camellias for the park. Unfortunately, £500 of this has to go on the actual planting and the rest has been spent on camellias purchased from the Trehane nursery in Dorset. John Trehane is a name that will always be associated with camellias in this country. Sadly he died in April last year. It was decided to contact his family and nursery to ask them to pick a collection for the Park that would then be called the Trehane collection.Where to put them? Well, the Park is surprisingly lacking camellias. Why? Well we really don’t know, When the Park was opened they had only just started arriving from China. Odd to think they cover vast areas of China (i.e. tea plants) and are even a forest tree in Japan. When they first arrived the Victorians put them in conservatories, only later realising they could be grown outside. A fine collection under glass may be seen in Chiswick Park where some of the original venerable specimens still exist. Were they originally placed in the many glasshouses that were in our Park? Again we don’t know, although quite likely. Not all the greenhouses were used for growing the myriad bedding plants that became so fashionable towards the end of the nineteenth century. Certainly they were open to the public, Chrysanthemums were shown and one remained open till relatively recently. Considering famous Victorian nurseries such as Alfred Chandler’s in Vauxhall and Colvil‘s on the King’s Road were so near it seems unlikely their plants did not find their way into the Park. Both of these nurseries were hotbeds of camellia activity.

Old postcard of a Walk

This rare, early, photograph of the ‘Walk’ at the edge of the Old English garden indicates an area where they may have been planted. Note the utterly rural nature of the ‘Walk’. The trees on the left seem to be limes with birch on the right. The unusual fence is possibly a row of birch boles. Lots of shrubs can be seen, typical of the Victorians. It is here where the Trehane collection will be planted. Originally, the Old English garden was a tiny botanic garden meant to teach people about the range and diversity of plants. For this reason I asked the nursery to pick a collection which illustrated the range of the genus with some excitements. They have not let us down.Camellias can be white, yellow, pink, red, variegated, single or double and also similar to roses, peonies or anemones in their flower shape. We seem to have all types.

The white camellias chosen are ‘Matterhorn’, ‘Lovelight’ and ‘Alba Plena’. The first is a classic snowy white, the second has large heavy petals and drooping branches and the third is one of the originals to have arrived romantically by sailing ship aboard the Carnatic in 1792. It has large flowers and conspicuously veined leaves. An excellent specimen can be seen at Chiswick.The pink camellias are ‘Debbi’, ‘Nuccio`s jewel’, ‘Desire’, ‘Berenice Boddy’, ‘Senorita’, ‘St Ewe’, and ‘Elizabeth de Rothschild’. ‘Debbie’ has a peony form and can flower early in mid-winter. It also has the attractive habit of dropping its petals forming a carpet. ‘Desire’ is a softer pink with a peculiar closed central bud looking like a pink pearl. ‘Nuccio`s jewel’ is an orchid pink with petals that sometimes form attractive rows giving a remarkable symmetry to the opening bud. ‘Berenice Boddy’ has two shades of pink, one on either side of the petal. ‘Senorita’ has odd wavy petals and ‘St. Ewe’ is a classically simple cup-shaped flower, with particularly glossy leaves. Lastly ‘Elizabeth de Rothschild’ has a simple single flower with a yellow centre. It is hybrid of two illustrious parents.We only have one deep red camellia, ‘Bob Hope’. This was bred in California in the 60s’ and has attractive golden stamens. The variegated forms are ‘William Bartlett’ and ‘Margaret Davis’. The first is a pale pink streaked with crimson. ‘Margaret Davis’ is a beautiful
creation, strong upright manner, a loose peony style, creamy with a rose-red blush, a delight and great favourite.Yellow camellias are rare. We have ‘Jury’s Yellow’. It has nine white petals with a big bunch of yellow petals in the centre. Lastly, there is something new and different, ‘Betty Foy Sanders’. This is a very unusual trumpet-shaped camellia with rose-red streaks.Like the Victorians we are planting for the future. This is a fine collection that will hopefully be at its best in 10 or 20 years time.