By Mark Hoskins, Nursery Supervisor at Thorngrove
February can be a bleak month, but there are still some lovely shrubs that flower at this time of year, and foremost among them are Camellias.
They have showy double flowers in shades of white, pink and red, and some are often bi-coloured, being variously mottled, striped or edged in contrasting shades.
Camellias have a reputation for being tender, but this is not really true. The plants are fully hardy and their glossy evergreen leaves will come through the coldest Winters intact (not surprising as many of them originate in the Himalayas). But the main problem is that the flowers are susceptible to frost damage, and will turn very brown and sorry-looking overnight when it’s cold.
This is caused by sun thawing the flowers too quickly, so planting in a shady sheltered spot will help avoid this. They do need an ericaceous soil, so may be best grown in a large pot, which their shallow root systems are well suited for. If pot grown, they can even be brought into a conservatory or a cool room indoors, where the flowers can be enjoyed without fear of damage.
We have a lovely range of Camellias at Thorngrove Garden Centre in flower at the moment, including Desire (white with a pink edge) Nagasaki (red blotched with white) Margaret Davis (variously mottled in light and dark pink) and Noblissima (white, flowers throughout the winter)
Another beautiful group of Winter-flowering shrubs are the Hamamelis. Their bare branches are covered in spidery flowers in shades of yellow, orange or red, and have the added bonus of a wonderful spicy scent which fills the air as you walk past them.
“They are quite slow-growing but will eventually become quite large, they like a bit of dappled shade and a neutral to acid soil. In Autumn, the leaves turn to fiery shades of orange and red as a prelude to the flowers. We currently have in stock Pallida (pale yellow) “Lelena” (orange) and Diane (red), all covered in flower.
Plant some winter-flowering shrubs, sit back with a cup of tea (made from Camellia leaf tips, by the way) and enjoy your garden.