This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Camellia japonica or Japan Rose, the species from which nearly all of our more valued garden varieties are descended, is, as we have already seen, said to have been introduced in 1739; but it is not mentioned in the sixth edition of Miller's "Gardeners' Dictionary," published in 1771. Notwithstanding this I find it thus described in " A History of Plants," by John Hill, M. D., published in 1751: - "Camellia. - The calyx is imbricated, and composed of several leaves, the interior of which are the larger. It is an oriental, described by Kaempfer in his 'Japan,' 850".
In the " Garden Vade Mecum," by John Aber-crombie, published in 1789, " Camellia japonica, or Japan Rose," is included in his list of both greenhouse and hothouse plants. In the "Practical Gardener," published in 1817, and in the 21st edition of "Every Man his Own Gardener," by the same author (1818), one species (C. japonica) and seven varieties only are enumerated..
Loudon in the " Encyclopaedia of Gardening," (1822) enumerates twenty-five varieties. In the "Greenhouse Companion" (1824) are colored plates of two varieties, Waratah and Lady Hume's Blush, the former of which is now superseded, but the latter is still much sought after. It is there remarked, " New varieties are continually originating by the nurserymen and other growers from seeds. A number of hybrids are in an advanced state but have not yet flowered".
The Camellia is frequently adverted to and figured in the botanical and horticultural publications of this time, and in the "Transactions of the Horticultural Society, in a paper read before the meeting, December 5, 1809, (vol. i., p. 175,) we find the following: - "In October, 1795, a Camellia japonica was planted here (the South Hams of Devonshire) among other shrubs in the open ground; it has stood every winter since, without the smallest shelter, thrives well and has never had a branch or leaf injured by the weather. It is now about four feet high, the size of a gooseberry bush, but has not flowered." Similar experiments, which have been repeated frequently and in various soils and situations, seem to prove that the plant is nearly hardy in the climate of England, and may be safely planted out-of-doors among other evergreens in warm sheltered situations. But in thus treating it one loses the beauty of the flowers, as, owing to their being produced in March and April, they are nearly always spoiled by the spring frosts.
We remember planting out two varieties, against a west wall in 1836, and these passed through the winter of 1837-8 uninjured, although there were 30° of frost, and the Bays, Arbutus, and Laurels standing in the open quarters only a few yards distant were killed to the ground. Mr. Joseph Harrison ("Trans. Hort. Soc," vol. vii., p. 168) found the double white, the double red, and the double striped grow satisfactorily out-of-doors at Wortley Hall, Yorkshire, " planted in a brown loam on a rocky substratum." He covered the soil to the extent of three feet from the stem of each plant with ten inches of decayed leaves on the approach of winter, removing the leaves in spring. In 1829, a paper on the Camellia, by William Beattie Booth, was printed in the " Transactions of the Horticultural Society" (vol. vii., p. 519). In this paper six species and twenty three varieties are described, four of the latter being figured, and it is there stated: "Of these very ornamental plants the Society has formed an extensive collection, such as I may safely say is not surpassed at the present time by any other in the kingdom." It appears that the double white and double striped were introduced in 1792, Lady Hume's Blush in 1806, Fimbriata in 1816, Imbri-cata and several other varieties in 1824.
Many of the varieties originally introduced are now but little cultivated. Hardy plants of them may be met with occasionally in the gardens of the nobility and old English families, but some of the modern varieties raised from them are more beautiful, and consequently more generally cultivated within the last forty years. Many fine varieties have been raised in England, especially by Mr. Chandler, of Vauxhall; Mr. Press, of Hornsey ; and Mr. Fielder, of Enfield ; and France, Belgium, Italy, and latterly America, have contributed largely to the improvement of the flowers by selecting and preserving variations by sports and by seed. In Loudon's "Encyclopaedia of Plants " (1820), eighteen garden varieties are enumerated, and in Paxton's "Botanical Dictionary" (edition 1849), as we have already mentioned, no fewer than 200 varieties are given. At this date there were at least three establishments near London where the Camellia was extensively cultivated, namely, those of Mr. John Smith, Dalston; Messrs. Chandler, Vauxhall; and Messrs. Loddiges, of Hackney. It was one of our greatest treats of that day to see the Camellias at Hackney when in flower in the early spring.
They were planted out in a large house, and many of the plants were thirty feet high, in splendid health and laden with blossoms. It was a perfect forest of Camellias, tenanted with blackbirds, thrushes, and other birds, which built their nests in the trees, passing in and out at pleasure through the open doors and windows. Probably there never was any floral display equal to this in England before, and it may be many years before we see the like again. Many of Messrs. Loddiges' large plants were, we believe, sold to the Crystal Palace Company and removed to their palace at Sydenham.
The Camellias of Messrs. Lucombe Pince & Co., of Exeter, have obtained a world-wide celebrity, and are worth going many miles to see. In nearly all the principal gardens and nurseries, few or many may be met with, but we believe that as far as regards quantity and variety our collection stands unrivalled at the present time. - William Paul in Gardener's Chronicle.