The so-called “Spring” beauties can be found as early as September in many areas, and always by November with blooms on their branches. The Association of Nurserymen says it is possible to enjoy up to six months’ floral beauty from camellias and azaleas.
This is achieved by selecting early-blooming varieties, using mid-season flowering types to follow the early birds, and finishing off this display with the late-blooming choices. Among camellias, it’s the Sasanquii segment of the family that breaks first with fall bloom. Before they finish, the early Japonicas start to show color. The latter type is the principal camellia in the cool winter months and is dominant in spring, too.
The difference between Sasanquas and Japonicas: First, the blooms of the Sasanquas are smaller but nonetheless attractive. Also, the framework of the plant is more willowy, the Sasanquas are marked by open, less rigid growth. The leaves are smalle and a darker shade of green than those of Japonica varieties which is a desireable characteristic in attaining landscape effects, and helps account for the popularity of Sasanquas.
Because of their growth habit, Sasanquas can be readily espaliered, used as a ground cover, grown in a hanging basket or serve as extraordinary landscape specimens. Another point is that Sasanquas as a group tolerate more sun than the Japonicas which prefer partial shade.
Your nurseryman can show you different Sasanqua varieties for various landscape situations. Varieties such as Cleopatra and Hinode-Gnmo grow taller; Showa-No-Sakae and White Doves, for instance, are low growing and spread attractively. Some nurseries will even have Sasanquas and certain Japonica varieties, pre-trained on trellises. These are easily transplanted into the garden where their presence will be fell immediately and their beauty can be enjoyed instantly.
The earliest azaleas to bloom are certain varieties of the Belgian Indica type. “Sweet Sixteen,” a double light pink, is among the first to show color in early fall. “Madame Petrick Alba” is another early performer, a pure white beauty, usually in bloom by October. There are reds and variegated reds and whites and other shades of colors to choose from, too.
Types and classifications of plants can be frustrating or confusing, if you allow them to be. The best way to choose early-blooming camellias and azaleas is to visit your nearly nursery and choose the exact colors on desire for the fall garden. Follow-up at a later time, and again as mid-winter nears. The procession of color needn’t be confined to the nursery, you can thrill to it in your own garden.