Thursday, March 1, 2012

Search For a Red Camellia - Camellia Forest Nursery

A couple weeks ago I was able to visit the Camellia Forest Nursery, a mail order and retail nursery in Chapel Hill, NC, that specializes in camellias and other exotic trees and shrubs from Asia.  The nursery is managed by Kai Mei, the wife of noted camellia breeder Dr. Clifford Parks, and their son David Parks.  Camellia Forest Nursery has introduced many new cultivars of camellias to the market.

One of the greenhouses that houses many camellia seedlings.
I was on the hunt for a red camellia.

Top: Camellia x 'Mieko Tanaka'
Middle:  bud of C. japonica Reg Ragland Supreme, C. x vernalis 'Yuletide' (often labeled C. sasanquas 'Yuletide'), C. japonica 'Christmas Beauty'
Bottom:  C. japonica 'Tama-no-ura', C. japonica 'Korean Fire'

The two most common groups of Camellias sold are the Sasanquas, which bloom in the fall or early winter, and the Japonicas, which bloom late winter or early spring.  There are many red japonicas, but no true red sasanquas.  Sasanquas touted as 'red' are usually just dark pink, such as C. sasanqua 'Reverend Ida'.

Camellia sasanqua 'Reverend Ida'
photo by Camellia Forest Nursery
But what to do if you want a red Camellia that starts blooming in the fall like I do?  'Yuletide' is one of the very few true red Camellias that blooms in the fall.  Its parentage is Camellia x vernalis, which according to the Norfolk Botanical Garden site is most likely an ancient hybrid between C. japonica and C. sasanqua.

Camellia x vernalis 'Yuletide', often labeled C. sasanqua 'Yuletide'
Camellia Forest Nursery recently released a new fall-blooming red Camellia, C. x 'Mieko Tanaka'.  Its parentage is C. x vernalis 'Gaisen' crossed with C. japonica, and it starts blooming in October.  According to Camellia Forest, it has quite a long bloom time - until March in milder areas.

Camellia x 'Mieko Tanaka'
A true red with such a long bloom time?  This was the Camellia for me!  And it's upright form is perfect for the location along my back fence.  Three of these little camellia shrubs found their way into my car.

Camellia x 'Mieko Tanaka'
It is now the beginning of March, and they are still blooming!

Camellia x 'Mieko Tanaka'
It is nice to have some shrubs covering up the big bare spot in my yard, and I know I am going to enjoy having bright red blooms throughout the winter!


  1. Looks like you were at the right place to search for your camellia. How lovely to have something bloom from fall to spring! Sounds like a perfect addition to the Red House Garden!

  2. The color on that variety is very striking. You found a beautiful one. Here I have daffodils blooming and hellebore...that is about it. Soon the tulips will be is spring...

  3. Gorgeous. I have 'Korean Fire' because it is hardy here and it blooms in the fall and the spring. I use the Camellia Forest website like an academic treatise on camellias. It's a great nursery.

  4. Oh, they sure are beauties, aren't they?! I wish we could grow Camellias here. What a wonderful place to visit!

  5. Hi Indie - looks like you found the perfect camellia for you - I was out at Camellia Forest a couple of times this fall, and was impressed with the variety of other plants they're growing and selling.

  6. I'm loving the new camellias! They are so bright and cheerful, too, and I see them whenever I look out of my back windows. Camellia Forest is a really fun nursery to visit - so many 'finds'!


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