Camellias, my favorite plant in (someone else's) garden...this week.

Today after work I stuck around for a little while to snap a few shots of my favorite camellias currently in bloom. They've been chomping at the bit for spring to arrive (as have we all) and many have lost a few flowers to the wintry cold snaps that have hit the southeast between periods of spring warmth. But the wonderful thing about camellias is that there are more buds waiting in the wings for the weather to change back to spring. The three cultivars in this post are my favorites blooming this week. I should apologize in advance for the quantity of pictures, but I just couldn't decide!

The first is Camellia japonica 'Black Magic'. This sultry beauty has dark, blood red flowers with a fringe of white hairs on the edge of the petals for extra definition. The petals are thick, glossy, and survive frosts down to at least 22 degrees Fahrenheit even when fully open (which is about 4 or 5 inches across). Hardy to zone 7, according to Camellia Forest Nursery, this camellia has a very upright habit in youth. The leaves are bright green and glossy with big teeth, providing good contrast to the flowers and an interesting texture. None of these images have been altered except a little cropping. I try to adjust the shutter speed and F-stop to provide the most accurate representation of the color in real life.

Gratuitous artsy shot

Yes, the petals really start out this dark! And the white fuzz on the edges give them a wonderful definition

As the petals expand, they gradually lighten to a deep red tinged with black. 

But these black flowers have a touch of gold in their hearts. 

 This next one is really unusual and beautiful. Camellia japonica 'Kujaku Tsubaki' (Several years later, I happened to research this camellia a little more carefully. It's correct name is 'Hakuhan-kujaku', also sometimes called 'Kujaku Variegated'. The real 'Kujaku' has solid red petals without the white mottling.). This fascinating cultivar is also sometimes known as the peacock camellia. Hardy to zone 7, this semi-weeping shrub grows to 12' x 8' bearing 3-4" long red flowers streaked and flecked with white, so that no two are alike. They do not open fully, rather having a hose-in-hose appearance. The long, narrow leaves add to the graceful effect. Open flowers are not as hardy as 'Black Magic', suffering some damage, but buds are produced copiously providing a good show regardless.

The beautiful specimen growing at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens

The white pattern on this flower actually looks like a peacock or maybe a phoenix  to me. See the long tail with the wings on either side? I should have peeled back the petals and bracts at the base of the flower to see if there was a head!

 Possibly my favorite of the three plants in this post is Camellia X 'Crimson Candles'. According to Camellia Forest Nursery, which introduced this cultivar, this is an F2 hybrid betwen Camellia reticulata and Camellia fraterna. It is hardy down to USDA zone 7 and grows to 12' tall by 8' wide. A few leaves were damaged by a cold spell of 8 or 9 degrees Fahrenheit in December or January (so bad that I already can't remember) but the buds were fine and the open flowers survived a dip near 20 degrees. The flowers do start out almost red, and lend themselves to the name 'Crimson Candles', but the fully open flowers are a dark pink. Just a warning, I will say over and over again that I don't like pink flowers, but that this or that is an exception. 'Crimson Candles' is one of those exceptions.

This specimen growing at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens has an exceptionally graceful form growing in the dense shade (in summer) of a black walnut. In sun this is a much fuller plant, but I prefer it this way.
It has a beautiful, layered appearance, rather than the impenetrable green blob typically seen (usually Camellia japonica and often because it's been sheared, also known as torture). 

I love the elegant simplicity of these flowers, as opposed to the dramatic opulence or flouncy ruffles of many camellias. Even the dark green leaves are elegant and neat.

I started with a good shot so I'm trying to end with one, too!
 My favorite plant in the garden this week is hosted by Danger Garden. Pop on over to see what she and other bloggers are excited about this week.

Until next time...


  1. All three are beautiful Camellias, but I really love that dark red one, 'Black Magic.'

    1. 'Black Magic' really does have stunning flowers. Thanks for commenting, Alison!

  2. I have a soft spot for camellias, they are such romantic flowers and unlike the pesky rhody blooms they actually last awhile and clean up themselves! 'Black Magic" is gorgeous...

    1. Most of them clean up themselves. 'Kujaku Tsubaki' does have the unfortunate habit of hanging onto its old blooms for awhile, but I still love it. Careful, Loree. Don't start talking trash about my beloved Rhodies! Just kidding. My parents have a spectacular red one (Rhododendron, not Camellia) that unfortunately blooms right around the time we get the first real heat of spring. Fries the blooms frequently, though they moved it to a new spot so maybe it will work better there.

  3. So beautiful! I've been snapping pictures of the camellias around here too as they are very photogenic!

  4. Thanks, Peter! They really are lovely.


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