New Variety of Camellia in the Arboretum Collection

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camellia wendzalea-red single flower

Article contributed by Kevin Cassel, Arboretum Grounds Supervisor

Camellias are well-known as a garden staple throughout the southern United States. When everything else is dormant, they offer vibrant, lush, and beautiful blooms through those cold winter months. Camellias are largely placed in two camps; the fall bloomers or Camellia sasanqua, which typically bloom from October through December; and the winter bloomers or Camellia japonica, which typically bloom from December through April. Camellia plant breeders, hybridizers, and enthusiasts are continually looking to create varieties that push the limits of what camellias are capable of traditionally. They are usually hardy in zones 7-10 but some hybrids have been developed that do well into zone 6. Getting the plants of each camp to bloom outside of their traditional periods is a sought-after achievement.

Making its way into the camellia connoisseur’s gardens, there is a hybrid variety that pushes the limit of bloom season, especially for a plant containing C. japonica parentage. First flowering in 2007 and developed by E. Hulyn Smith of Valdosta, Georgia and registered in 2009, Camellia hybrid ‘Wendzalea’, has made it’s way into our collection. It is a cross between Camellia azalea and Camellia japonica ‘Wendy’. A single, ruby red, flower surrounds upright golden anthers and salmon pink filaments. We are grateful for the donated plants by Mark Crawford of Loch Laurel Nursery in February 2022. After planting, we had a fully open bloom on September 27th, which was a sight to see (pictured below). ‘Wendzalea’ is also touted as having a second flush of flowers in late January to February! This will be one to watch – we can’t wait!