Why grow Camellias? These plants provide glossy evergreen foliage to your garden, with showy flowers that catch the eye in the early part of the season when your other plants aren’t quite ready to bloom yet. A common myth about Camellias is that they’re fussy – but they’re actually quite easy to grow, with versatility and resilience as standard!
Traditionally, Camellias were not hardy plants. Native to eastern and southern Asia, earlier varieties of Camellia were only suited to regions with mild winters. Now, however, with advancements in breeding, some contemporary Camellias can tolerate temperatures as low as -10C to -20C if well-sheltered!
In terms of selection, there are many Camellias to choose from (and, no, they can’t all be made into tea). Some reach for the skies with petite blooms such as the super fresh ‘Cupido’, while others are neat and tidy with showy flowers like ‘Bonanza’.
Though almost any Camellia variety will win you style points, the Camellia Volunteer® will knock it out of the park. As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post, the Volunteer™ is very likely to be the most popular variety of Camellia in the world for consumers. Why? Let me tell you…
No, I’m not talking about the hairstyle! These frosted tips belong to the petals of the Camellia Volunteer®, and this is just one of many distinctions which set it apart from other varieties.
The Volunteer® Camellia’s blooms are, on average, 10cm in diameter – and filled with texture. The deep pink-red of this Camellia ombrés into a frosty white edge, giving each petal dimension and making them appear even bigger and showier!
This pink-red to white ombré sticks around throughout the lifespan of each flower, although it will become deeper and richer over time.
This variety performs best when planted in partial shade, but if necessary, it can also thrive in full sun. This versatility means that Camellia Volunteer® can suit a variety of gardens.
Not only is it versatile placement-wise, this variety can be planted in pots and borders, and can even be used as hedging. Imagine the beauty when your hedges thrive with pink-red blooms! Your garden will be the talk of the neighbourhood.
If allowed, this Camellia has the capability of growing into a tall shrub or small tree. At full growth, it can reach a height of two metres and a spread of 1.5 metres! Talk about tall and beautiful – this is the Victoria’s Secret model of the the plant world!
Unlike Victoria’s Secret models, however, Camellia Volunteer® requires low maintenance (no dieting or rigorous exercise regimes here!). While your plant is in its youth, it will require regular watering to help it become established. But after that, it will become relatively drought tolerant.
Don’t feel like you have to keep an eye out for hungry critters or nasty illnesses though – this Camellia is particularly resilient to pests and disease! Sure you might get the odd curious aphid here or there, but for the most part you can keep your bug sprays in the cupboard.
Where does Camellia Volunteer® come from?
The Camellia Volunteer® was spotted by keen eyed New Zealand breeder Mark Jury. Examining his seedlings, the plant clearly stood out from the rest – you could say it ‘volunteered’ itself.
Coincidentally, this discovery happened during 2011, The Year of Volunteers. Mark named the variety Volunteer® to honour volunteers everywhere. The plant and its meaning were thought of so fondly by others, that the variety was actually pictured on a postage stamp!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.