January plant of the month: Camellia 'Donation'

Camellias are a must, bringing glorious colour to the garden in winter and early spring

‘Donation’ is one of the best camellias, producing large, semi-double blooms among glossy, bright green leaves.

The soft pink saucer-shaped flowers are enhanced by a delicate pattern of deep pink veins that radiate across the petals and conspicuous bright yellow stamens adorn the centre. Best of all, these flowers bloom over a long period of time (January – April at here at Rosemoor).

This large, vigorous shrub (up to 5m (16ft) in height) is best planted in partial shade where the flowers are longer lasting and less likely to fade. It needs to be sheltered from cold, drying winds and the early morning sun to prevent damage to the emerging buds and flowers. Camellias are prone to bud drop unless the roots are kept moist during the summer.

Little deadheading is required as 'Donation', like all Camellia × williamsii hybrids, very helpfully drops its spent flowers. The only pruning necessary (immediately after flowering) is to remove branches that spoil the look of the plant or to keep it within bounds. Your camellia will respond well to an annual top dressing with shredded bark or well-rotted leaf mould.

Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'Camellias prefer humus-rich, acid soil, but don't despair if you do not have the right conditions as the upright and compact habit of ‘Donation’ makes it ideal for growing in containers of ericaceous (acidic) potting compost.

It is also perfect for growing as an informal flowering screen. Camellias are native to woodland areas in Asia and are therefore suitable for naturalising in woodland gardens as we have done along our woodland walk at Rosemoor.

In the Winter Garden, ‘Donation’ grows alongside other shrubs that flower in late winter/early spring including the witch hazel Hamamelis × intermedia 'Arnold Promise', Mahonia japonica and Acorus gramineus 'Oborozuki' which provides an effective grass-like ground cover with variegated leaves.

Camellia × williamsii 'Donation' AGM is a lovely plant and well worth growing if you have the conditions it needs for healthy growth and the space to allow it to thrive.

See also

Buy Camellia × williamsii 'Donation' direct from the RHS Plant Shop

RHS advice: how to grow camellias

Plan your visit to RHS Garden Rosemoor

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