Blooming from late winter to spring, camellias are both cheerful and elegant. They can be grown in zones 6-9, in sun to part shade. They prefer well-drained, organic, slightly acid soil. Eventually they reach 6 to 12 feet tall, but they are slow growers.
Native to China, they are a member of the tea family, Theaceae. Camellia sinensis is green and black tea. Look out soon for the debut of ‘Camellia Senses’, a line of exquisite Japanese green teas.
Camellias have been used in Korean weddings for hundreds of years and are still a popular cut flower. Some are very fragrant. They come in hues of white, pink and red.
The lovely pink blooms I couldn’t help noticing were slightly double with lots of yellow stamens. The leaves were about 3 inches long, quite glossy and very dark green with slightly serrate edges. The shrub is part of the lush gardens around the Kennedy School, a restaurant/theater/inn in a classic old school building in Northeast Portland. It’s a perfect place to take visiting relatives. The camellia was sprawling against a railing right outside the back door, loaded with blossoms. I can’t help but be impressed with such lush, colorful flowers at this time of year. As I left I saw a hummingbird visiting it.