Camellia ‘Donation’

Few plants have inspired such a chorus of praise among gardeners as this superb Camellia. The botanist-nurseryman, Harold Hillier, described it as ‘perhaps the most beautiful Camellia raised this century’. It is one of the Williamsii group named after J.C. Williams of Caerhays Castle in Cornwall, who first crossed C japonica (very hardy) with C. saluensis (prolific of seed) to produce cultivars which are both hardy and free-flowering. One connoisseur, seeing ‘Donation’ for the first time, is said to have stood before it taking his hat on and off several times. ‘Donation’ is, of course, evergreen, with glossy toothed leaves and enormous semi-double flowers up to 5 inches ‘Donation’ is an outstanding hybrid camellia, forming a handsome shrub up to 12 feel (3.7 m) high clothed with glossy evergreen leaves. It is hardy and flowers very freely in mid-spring. (12.5 cm) across in a rich pink with a strong tinge of blue. The plant will grow in time up to 12 feet (3.7 m), flowering profusely in mid-spring. If hit by a hard frost, the flowers will fall, but many new buds will open. In really cold districts, it can be grown under glass.

Like all camellias, ‘Donation’ requires special cultivation. It likes best to grow under a high canopy of scattered trees, like pine or oak, in acid soil rich in humus; it needs moisture at the roots and good drainage. Being shallow-rooted, it is vulnerable to drying winds, and should be regularly mulched. Having said this, it is heartening to see how many town gar-dens are enlivened in spring with a few camellias, either in open ground or in tubs of peaty soil, in the norther hemisphere always sited against a north or west wall so that early sunshine will not catch the night frost on the buds.

In planting ‘Donation’ in the open garden it is important to remember that the colour has much blue in it and swears with salmon pink or red flowers. I have seen it exquisitely planted with white camellias and even pale yellow rhododendrons, and often with later-flowering shrubs like roses or hyd-rangeas, for thought must be given to the many months when camellias are somewhat sombre evergreens. Lily-ofthe-valley, which would normally be in leaf and bud while the camellia is in flower, would make a harmonious underplantmg.

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