It’s camellia time – if the weather is kind


SOUTHSEA GREEN: With Irene Strange

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At last the camellia buds are swelling and if we have a gentle spell instead of all that spiteful snow, rain and wind, they will soon be in flower.

I am wondering what the weather will be like when you are reading this!

Camellias are perfectly hardy once they have been established in the garden for three years. But if grown in pots or containers the compost can freeze and if the temperature remains below freezing for two weeks or more, a lot of pot-grown specimens will die.

As we have not had such a long spell of continuous frosts it might be a good idea to take action. If we protect the pots the weather will turn milder, due to Murphy’s Law.

A simple solution is to move the pots as close to the house as possible so that they actually touch the brickwork on the warmest side of the building.

Odd bits of glass fibre used as loft insulation can be used to go around the outside of pots with another rounded piece to cover 
the top of the pot, making sure there is a slit for the stem.

Water when the compost feels dry – the middle of the day is the best time. The cover can be lifted and closed again afterwards.

The next problem is actually caused by sunshine after very cold nights. The blooms turn brown when they should be perfect.

This is very annoying and is a tremendous problem in stately homes and public parks.

In our gardens this problem can be prevented. Two or three layers of horticultural fleece can be used to cover the tops of the camellias – a single layer is not sufficient. The fleece defuses the rays of the sun.

The fleece can be removed during the middle of the morning so that the blooms can be enjoyed, and replaced again late afternoon if frosts are forecast.

Imagine doing this in public parks - the entire population would think the local authority had gone mad!

How do you keep the fleece in place, surely the wind will blow it away?

Use pincher pegs.

Is fleece expensive? No, it can be bought by the metre at your garden centre and it is usually two metres wide.

Is there an alternative? Yes, buy huge ladies’ dresses at jumble sales, roll them up and over the shrub and use three pincher pegs to hold the neck together.

During mid-morning hang the wet dresses up on the clothesline using the pegs and everyone will think your great aunt has come to stay!