We have a wide variety of sasanqua and japonica camellias. Many are blooming now. They are great fall, winter and early spring bloomers. It’s a way to have flowers when all else is dormant.
We have some great local (to Alabama) talent breeding Camellias. Bobby Green of Green Nurseries & Landscape out of Fairhope, Alabama, has bred many of our camellias. He has done extensive work with camellias over the years. Bobby has introduced 14 Camellia sasanqua hybrids including Green’s Blues, Rose of Autumn and the Southern Living October Magic series. In his blog, he talks about camellia hybrids:
“There are two varieties of camellia hybridizers to whom we owe a debt; the flower breeder and the landscape breeder. Plantsman Tom Dodd, Jr. of Semmes, Alabama was the latter. Surprisingly, as late as the 1980s, not much hybridization had been performed within the “hiemalis” sub-group (those C. sasanqua that have C. japonica influence in their genetics) of Camellia sasanqua the best-known “hiemalis”, ‘Shi-Shi-Gashira’ and “Showa No Sakae’ are examples of plants with the good characteristics of the hiemalis sub-group. Hiemalis cultivars often share traits of double flowers, extended bloom season, increased vigor, and often much red pigment in many flowers. Dodd’s C. sasanqua (hiemalis) cultivars ‘Bonanza’, ‘Reverend Ida’, and ‘Stephanie Golden’ are now widely grown in the Southeast.”
“My father was a change purse hybridizer. Rural men of his generation would typically carry a small leather pouch nestled deeply in khaki pants. At our small retail nursery, in an era where coins still mattered, the change purse doubled as a cash register. We were often allowed to pull the pennies from the Saturday afternoon over laden purse. To an eight year old of the 1960s the change purse contained many mysteries. A three cent stamp; a Mercury head dime; an impossibly small screw that had fallen from now-taped eyeglasses, and always a seed or two taken from an unlikely, but promising source. The seeds were planted by the father and the pennies exchanged for baseball cards at the 1960s conversion rate of one cent to one card.”
“That change purse produced a few camellias we still grow today. Most notably, Camellia sasanqua ‘Sarrel’, (named for my niece) a seedling of ‘Showa No Sakae’, producing peony-form lavender-pink flowers on an informal spreading shrub. The original 1970s seedling is now just five feet tall and 10’ wide. Yet, few have ever heard of this quite useful landscape shrub. In the 1980s I shared the plant with Mr. Dodd. He quickly grew over a thousand a year, all of which were swallowed up by one landscape firm in east Texas. Consequently, other than the satisfied clients of that firm, the plant was not widely appreciated. Today, ‘Sarrel” is slowly increasing in popularity among landscape designers who value the informal spreading habit."
Read the rest of Bobby’s blog about Camellia hybridizers and the full process of growing Camellias at http://www.greennurseries.com/.