By - Carlos May

Your outdoor Landscape and the Camellia

Your outdoor landscape will look gorgeous with camellia shrubs. By using the camellia as part of your outdoor landscape you will have a difficult time finding a plant that is equal to this evergreen shrub in terms of beauty. They not only have lovely flowers but this evergreen shrub has shiny dark green foliage that makes them very attractive outdoor landscape features even if they are not blooming.

In the milder zones of the United States, January is the most advantageous time to shop for and plant camellias. Many of the plants that are in the nurseries are in bloom now, This way you will be able to see what the blooms will look like and it is best to plant them now before the new growth begins. The new growth will start after the blooming period ends.

Most camellia varieties need to have an area of filtered sun, although the camellia sasanqua will endure full sun. If your garden does not have an area that provides partial shade you can always plant the camellia as a container plant on your patio. You also want the area for planting to be protected from strong winds. If your camellias get too much sun they could suffer from scald on their leaves, which is when the leaves seem to appear yellow instead of a deep dark green. Camellias will make good foundation plants where they are protected or shaded by large trees. They are also very beautiful on patios, as hedges, or in shaded secluded corners.

The flower colors of the growing camellias come in impressive shades of pink, red, white, or a combination of these colors. Camellias also make beautiful cut flowers due to the fact that the blooms have a lasting quality. Most camellia varieties can live for a century or so and can get as tall as 25 feet. But they are very slow-growing and can be pruned to whatever size you want, particularly as a flowering evergreen shrub.

The soil for camellias needs to be slightly acidic and well drained. They can also be planted in a commercial planting mix especially for camellias. Once the camellias are established, they are generally easy to maintain. The soil for the camellia should be kept moist, but it should never be soggy. When new growth starts to appear, your should feed the shrub with a camellia food; you only want to feed when the soil is moist, and then water immediately after feeding. You can repeat the feeding about every seven weeks through the middle of September. Always follow the directions on the fertilizer label and never overfeed.

Camellia bushes have very few diseases and most of them will not occur in dry climates. The primary disease is die-back which is caused by the glorerella cingulata fungus; you need to prune away all infected branches to the clean wood. Another disease is phytophthora cinnamomi root rot which will attack camellia japonica. To prevent this is by having good drainage. The camellia sasanquas and the new ‘winter-hardy’ camellia are pretty much immune to this root rot.

When you plant camellias in your outdoor landscape you want to allow about eight feet between the plants, unless you are planting them as a hedge when six feet apart will be fine. Some of the ‘winter-hardy’ camellias will make excellent hedges. Some of the varieties of camellia include the Bob Hope with its deep red blooms; Misty Moon with lavender pink blooms; Elizabeth Down Silver with blush pink blooms that are bordered in white; Debutante with light pink blooms and the Yuletide with its bright red flowers that bloom during the holidays. The camellia has very attractive fall and winter flowers with bright green glossy leaves and is a must for most winter gardens.

By - Carlos May

Shade Landscaping in a Dim Backyard

To plant a shade landscaping effectively we will need a plan to fit the proper plants. Shade landscaping is for the dim backyard, areas that sit under a shade tree or some hidden corner that does not get very much sun. Planning before we start planting is the key to a successful landscape design.

When a plant fails in our shady backyard it usually means that it was not a shade tolerant landscaping plant. Sometimes when we visit the garden nursery we fall in love a particular plant, buy it, take it home and plant it without checking to see if our environment is conducive to its requirements. We go ahead and plant it where there is room, it dies and then we discover it was planted in the wrong spot.

One of the common problems we face when shade landscaping is finding the plants that will satisfy the needs of the landscape design. From an artistic view point we probably have a fantastic landscape plan mapped out with good colors and intriguing textures. Eventually it comes time to carry out our landscape plan. We have now hit our first stumbling block, the plants and trees we selected are not good shade plants. We need to swallow our pride and realize that the shade is really meant for the plants that do not need very much sun and like the shade.

Landscape requirements have a habit of changing over time and we need to redo some of those now shady areas to keep our garden beautiful. Some of us have lived in our homes for twenty years or more and those trees and shrubs have matured and created more shade. We have a couple of choices here, trim everything back to give you more sun or put in shade landscape plants. Some plants, as we well know, do not do well in the shade but there are plenty that thrive with the shady conditions. Some plants do well with light shade, and others will thrive with partial or full shade. The amount of shade in our landscape can change with the seasons. The areas that receive full sun in the summer may be partially shaded in the spring and fall due to the lower angle of the sun.

We know that some of our large shade trees are valuable resources and pruning away some of the dead, diseased, and structurally poor limbs will improve the beauty of our landscape and also give us the opportunity to set in some plants that require more sunlight. Another way to expand the light in our garden is to paint a fence or the siding of the house a light color for a substantial effect. Root competition for moisture is an important consideration in shade landscaping. Some of the shade tolerant plants adapt to the low moisture while others need moist shade. We will need to consider all the nearby plants, trees and shrubs when choosing or watering our plants.

Ferns are low maintenance shade tolerant plants. We want to provide them a well-drained area so they will not be allowed to dry out. They are good border plants, like to be planted near ponds or streams, or as accent plants. If we have plenty of shady areas in the garden, we may want to add some ferns for color and interest. The Autumn Fern is an excellent plant for this because it adds a new color every season.

Just because we are planning on shade landscaping in a dim backyard does not mean we will not be able to have beautiful flowers. When choosing flowers there are a few that will do well with four hours of sun or less: Annuals; Globe Amaranth needs only 4 hours sun with purple, pink, magenta, red, or white flowers. Nicotiana, only 4 hours of sun with purple, pink, red, white, yellow or green flowers. Perennials; Forget-Me-Not needs full or part shade with its bright blue flower with yellow center. Columbine likes 4 hours sun with red or pink flowers. Hardy Geranium needs partial shade with colors of purple, red, pink, white, or blue. Coral Bells, want part to full shade with many colors ranging from coppery orange to black and deep purple to chartreuse. Bleeding Heart likes partial to full shade with its shades of pink, purple, red, and white blooms. Biennials; Foxglove needs around four hours of sun with purple, pink, white, yellow or red flowers.

When choosing shrubs, here are some that enjoy the shade: Butterfly Bush; needs about 4 hours of sun with cheerful blooms of red, pink, purple, white, and yellow. Red Twig Dogwood; needs partial shade and will tolerate full shade with white blooms in summer and purple leaves in fall. Oakleaf Hydrangea: it is happy in partial shade landscaping and its blooms are white in spring, they fade to pink in summer and brown in fall.