Plantswoman FIONA EDMOND owns the award-winning Green Island Gardens in Essex.

Today the topic of her gardening column is Camellias

WE are right in the midst of camellia season here at Green Island Gardens.

Despite last summer’s drought during which this year’s buds were formed, we still have a fantastic display this spring.

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There are over 120 different varieties on show in the gardens ranging in colour from white through shades of different pinks to the darkest reds, in all different flower forms.

Fortunately, we have avoided the predicted frosts which threaten to spoil the blooms, turning them brown and mushy. Occasionally some varieties produce different coloured flowers on one shrub, I had assumed demonstrating their parentage, as Camellias have been highly interbred.

For example, Camellia japonica ‘Tinkerbell’, which is supposed to have pale pink anemone flowers, regularly produces flowers flecked with dark pink markings and some that are dark flowers marked with pale pink.

However, Camellia ‘High Hat’ which is has pretty pale pink flowers has this year produced one rogue deep pink flower!

This has caused me to do a little more research into why this happens. According to the RHS this is caused by naturally occurring genetic mutations, known as sports, breaks or chimeras.

They can cause a change in flower or leaf colour or form, and are often caused by a change in temperature or conditions or even insect damage. If undesired the sports can be removed but they do no harm and the following year they usually revert to their original form. In many cases these mutations give rise to new varieties and are often sought after by nurserymen.

Do not be fooled by a variety called Camellia ‘Tricolor’, this is a plant offered by several mail order companies and carries red, pink and white blooms all on one plant; well that’s what you are meant to believe. The growers supply 3 plants grown closely together in one pot and eventually the roots and branches all become entwined giving the appearance of being just one plant!

The other possibility is that a plant demonstrating this phenomenon has thrown up some suckers from a different rootstock if the plant has been grafted. Most propagation of Camellias in Europe is by hardwood cuttings however more are grafted in the USA. If this is the case any branches with different flowers shooting from below the graft should be removed as soon as possible.

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