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Watch For Awesome Camellia Sasanquas
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
One of the most drop-dead gorgeous camellia sasanquas will soon be showing up at a garden center near you. It is obvious that most gardeners haven't really learned about this awesome variety called Shishigashira.
When you consider the waxy leather leaves of these evergreens coupled with blooms as pretty as a rose, you wonder why people would plant anything else. The Shishigashira is a dwarf-to-compact form of camellia sasanqua with rose-pink blooms.
The camellia is in the tea family and is a staple of the Southern garden. For newcomers who don't know one camellia from another, there are two basic types sold at your garden center. The camellia sasanqua blooms in the fall and early winter, and the camellia japonica blooms in the winter and early spring. There are varieties of each that will make that last statement a lie, but for the most part it is true. The camellia sasanqua has a track record of taking extremely cold winters better than the japonica.
There are some new U.S. National Arboretum hybrids that can take zone 6b that I'll tell you about in a few weeks.
Sasanquas like the Shishigashira can take more sun than the camellia japonica, but I prefer to plant in partial shade. Prepare the bed for camellias by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter, 2 pounds of a 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area and till deeply.
Notice that I said bed. It is so important to put shrubs of every kind in a bed rather than simply digging holes in turf. Dig the planting hole three to five times as wide as the rootball but no deeper. Place the camellia in the hole and backfill with soil, tamp and water to settle, and apply mulch.
By choosing both Camellia sasanquas and Camellia japonicas we can have the best of all worlds, fall and winter bloom, winter and spring bloom and great summer time foliage as pretty as a ligustrum.
Moisture is critical the first summer, and that is one of the best reasons for fall planting of trees and shrubs. Research indicates that planting trees and shrubs in September will give plants almost a full growing season's advantage over those planted in the spring.
The roots of the plants will get established and continue to grow all fall even when top growth has ceased. Next spring when new growth resumes, the root system will be able to supply all of the plant's needs.
Feed a month after transplanting with a light application of a slow-released, balanced fertilizer. Feed established plantings with a slow-released camellia fertilizer or balanced (8-8-8) fertilizer in late spring at 1 pound per 100 square feet of planted area.
Water during dry periods and keep well mulched. In fact, get out and rake every pine needle or leaf that falls and consider it like picking up dollar bills. Use a dormant oil to control scale. Prune after blooming to shape.
The Shishigashira combines well with lower level plants adjacent to evergreens like hollies or junipers. They would also work in combination with Southern Indica type azaleas like Formosa, and Judge Solomon.
For a pretty fall display, plant pansies in your bed next to the Shishigashira. White Crystal Bowl pansies would look nice but something like Imperial Frosty Rose, Bingo Rose Frost and Bingo Pink Shades would look really exceptional.