Considering the inclement weather it was a full turnout for the November meeting of Dawlish Garden Society to hear Jeremy Wilsons’ talk on Camellias.
Jeremy has worked in the horticulture industry for many years and now runs a small nursery (Strete Gate Camellias) growing plants including his beloved Camellias. He explained the background to the naming of these versatile plants by Carl Linnaeus in the 1700’s, but initially identified by Georg Kamel, a Jesuit missionary. Originally distributed around Asia including India, Japan and Indonesia, there are 267 named species with over twenty thousand cultivars.
Perhaps the most well known is Camellia Sinensis more commonly known as Tea, just the tips of the plant are picked so that’s where the name PG Tips (Premium Grade) came from. In Kenya, it’s estimated that around 5 million people work in the tea trade and there are several plantations now up and growing in Britain. In China they use Camellia Oil for cooking, the Japanese utilise it for haircare and their woodworking tools, here in the UK it’s beginning to be used in the cosmetics industry.
Breeding programmes have produced hardy varieties in the USA; dwarf, slow growing and fragrance has also been factored in to produce Camellias, which, depending on the variety planted and grown, can be in bloom in gardens from as early as September through until May. In fact the Chinese have recently developed a pure yellow flower which will grow in British conditions, so there is something for everyone to suit any situation in their garden or even for a pot on the patio.
The talk was illustrated with photographs of flower types and colours from shrubs, trees and even a glorious hedge, much more interesting and beautiful than privet. Jeremy then advised that the best soil is acid, or ericaeceous compost if in a pot, they will tolerate shade but flower better in the sun. Best planted in Autumn so the roots settle in, then feed between March and August. The buds for next years flowers ripen in June so it’s crucial to water during summer and to start to take cuttings (from non budding shoots) from July.
Jeremy answered many questions from members who thouroughly enjoyed his talk, then had a top tip of lining the insides of terracotta pots with bubble plastic which helps to protect Camellias from frost in winter and drying out in summer.

Amoung many entries, flower of the month was won with a scented Narcissus brought by Valerie Forrester.
The next meeting will be at the Manor on 31st January 2019 at 7.15 which will be a Bring and Share supper with wine and soft drinks. There will also be a short talk and the AGM, all are welcome, bring a friend for £2 to include raffle and refreshments. The website is at www.dawlishgardensociety.org.uk