This once universally cultivated plant has gone largely out of fashion and for the last twenty years is neither seen nor spoken of. The cause is not far to seek. Our largest and best tea roses are as beautiful in form, of warmer tints of color and fragrant. Then, again, all cut flowers must now have their natural stem, and that largely bars the camellia. There was a time which all older florists remember in the first days of the use of elaborate mechanically made designs when camellias were indispensable, and more than one of us can remember the request or order of our patrons of thirty years ago: "Be sure to put in plenty of japonicas."
They are mostly all propagated by grafting the fine varieties on seedling stocks or stocks raised from cuttings put into sandy soil in July and August in a coldframe that can be kept shady and cool. The propagation is better left to the specialist and the growing of camellias to the private gardener. Not because their cultivation is at all difficult but because the demand both I or the plants and flowers is too meager.
In cool conservatories they make grand bushes planted out in the border. The writer well remembers the day when it was his duty to jar the stem of a large double white camellia every morning when in flower and then rake up from the perfectly kept border hundreds of fallen petals, but that was in a climate more suitable, I think, for the camellia than this one.
They like a good, strong yellow loam and should not be overpotted. The roots should be moist the year round and in the spring and early summer, their growing time, should have plenty of water and an occasional syringing. They can be had in bloom from October till M'ay, but endure no such thing as forcing. The only way to get them into bloom early is to start them growing in the spring early. At that time they will stand a good heat with plenty of moisture on leaf and root. As soon as they have made their growth and show the small flower bud on the end of the growth they should be kept as cool as possible during the remainder of the summer. The hot summer is what they don't like, and there is no better place in summer than out of doors in the shade of a building or, what is still better, a summer house covered with lattice-work, which gives partial shade and coolness. They will do very well in winter in a temperature of 40 degrees at night.
When I say they are hardy in the south of England and the milder parts of Ireland you can form an idea as to their hardiness. I remember about the year 1864 a large plant of the Lady Hume's Blush that was badly covered with white scale. It was left out of doors all winter, with the intention of applying the radical treatment of kill or cure. The camellia came through the winter unharmed. I forget whether the scale was killed or not. The scale is about the only pest that troubles the camellia and that can be destroyed by washing with the kerosene emulsion.
The hybrids that were raised from the several species are the most useful if you grow them at all. The single colored varieties are fine decorative flowers. I learn from a Philadelphia firm that a great many camellias are now sold to go to the southern states. Where planted out they would be very fine.