Camellia sasanqua and How to Deal with Frost Damage in the Garden

‘Tis the season… to enjoy your garden from inside on a wintry day when the weather is rainy, cold and blustery. Why not dress up your entrance with winter blooming plants to welcome you home or place them where you can see them outside a window? Besides bedding plants like primroses, violas and pansies, there are colorful shrubs that bloom during the winter. Here are some good additions to your garden to brighten things up.

White Doves camellia sasanqua

Camellias are a great shrub any time of year, but camellia sasanqua start flowering in the fall and the popular red ‘Yuletide’ blooms right at Christmas time. A wonderful addition to the smaller garden, the White Doves camellia sasanqua stays compact reaching only 4-5 feet tall and a little wider. Sparkling white, semi-double blooms make quite a statement in the darker days of winter. By the way, White Doves camellia pairs beautifully with the white hydrangea, ‘Incrediball’, with it’s monstrous 12 inch flower heads. These flowers open green, then mature to white, finally fading again to green. Both are beautiful in a white garden.

Chansonette camellia sasanqua

‘Chansonette’ is another beautiful sasanqua variety with rich pink flowers. Growing to 2-3 feet tall and 8 feet wide they look great spread out on a trellis for those narrow places. Sasanqua camellias can tolerate a little more sun than the more common camellia japonicas. They come in a variety or forms from compact shrubs to open vining types that can be espaliered. If you don’t have any of this variety they would make a good addition to your garden.

Camellia japonica has been the standard in U.S. and European gardens since the 1800’s when they were introduced from China and Japan. Their flowers range from formal types like my favorite, ‘Nucchio’s Pearl’ to anemone form, rose form and peony- like flowers. There are early flowering varieties as well as types that bloom as late as May which is why it seems that camellias are always blooming.

Here’s how to handle freeze damage If the recent cold spell nipped any of your plants. Don’t be tempted to rush out and prune away the damage. This winter will surely have more cold weather and the upper part of your plant, even if damaged, can protect the crown from further freezing. This applies to citrus trees, too. If a perennial like Mexican bush sage froze and is now gooey and black, cut the plant down to the ground. It will re-grow come spring from the root system. If the old, dead foliage and stems are not black, leave them until you see new growth starting on the plant. They will provide an extra degree or two of protection for tender new buds and shoots coming along for next year. This advice applies to all your perennials. And the best part, you don’t have to lift a finger until next year. One last tip: if you do have plants that need covering in a frost, use a blanket, towel or other type of cloth and not plastic. The cold will go right through plastic covering and damage the plant.