Camellias

Camellias are of unique importance to the British, providing us with the tea plant and its fantastic ornamental cousins. Among the first to colour up, ornamental camellias will produce large intricate blooms starting in winter.

Unsuitable for growing in chalky alkali soils, camellias will fail to absorb adequate nutrients. To correct this, we recommend you use acidic compost and fertiliser, mix pine needles into your mulch and water with rainwater.

Camellias were named by Carl Linneas after Georg Joseph Kamel, a Jesuit missionary who provided ample accounts of Philippine flora.

Originating from Asia, the tea plant Camellia sinensis was first introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Dutch. Proving popular among the rich, tea remained a luxury good and it wasn't until the late 19th century it was consumed by all levels of society.

Ornamental camellias were introduced in the 18th century with the first grown at Thorndon Hall by Robert James, a renowned horticulturalist and British peer. Considered exotic, and therefore suitable for hot, humid climates, camellias were originally grown in the hot houses, where they quickly died. Exploding in popularity with the expansion of the tea trade, dozens of new species were bought in and it became common for the rich to establish camellia houses. Although fading in popularity due to the rise of orchids, camellias were revived after World War 1 due to their suitability to temperate climates.

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