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Soon after C. saluenensis began to flower in this country it was crossed with C. japonica, notably by J. C. Williams at Caerhays and by Col. Stephenson Clarke at Borde Hill. The first plants raised at Caerhays were named ‘J. C. Williams’, ‘St Ewe’, and ‘Mary Christian’, while those at Borde Hill were called ‘Donation’ and ‘Salutation’. These became widely known in the years 1940-7 and since then many more hybrids of the same parents have been raised and named. The first to flower is ‘November Pink’, raised at Caerhays, which starts to flower in early November and goes on to May. These hybrids are most floriferous, hardier than C. saluenensis, but as in that species the flowers fall when they are over, and do not have to be picked off as is so often the case with C. japonica. In general the hybrid favours C. japonica in vegetative characters, the branches being glabrous and the elliptic or broad elliptic leaves 23⁄5 to 34⁄5 in. long and 11⁄5 to 21⁄5 wide, shallowly serrulate, usually dark shining green above and bright shining green below, often with scattered brownish spots (cork-warts) which it inherits from its japonica parent. The flowers are more like those of C. saluenensis, 2 to 5 in. in diameter, single or semi-double, white flushed rose, or pale to deep rose, and as in that species the ovary is densely hairy, not glabrous as in C. japonica. An interesting form is ‘C. F. Coates’ which has the fish-tail leaves of its japonica parent.
C. ‘Leonard Messel’ is a hybrid between C. × williamsii ‘Mary Christian’ and C. reticulata, raised at Nymans, Sussex, and given an Award of Merit when shown by the late Mrs Messel and the National Trust in 1958. It takes after the Captain Rawes camellia in the shape of its flowers but has the hardiness of the C. × williamsii hybrids, and is easily raised from cuttings. The flowers are deep pink and are borne over a long period (March to May).
It is generally acknowledged that for the average British garden the most reliable camellias belong to this group, or are related to it. This is above all due to their ability to set flower-bud regularly, even in areas where the growing season is shorter than average. Soon after it came into commerce, it was found that ‘Donation’ succeeded as far north as Inverewe in Wester Ross, and now many other camellias of the same type are growing and flowering in parts of Scotland and northern England where few if any Japonicas would thrive.
In the 1950s almost the only Williamsii camellias available were the singles from Caerhays and the semi-double ‘Donation’. Now, thanks largely to New Zealand breeders, all the flower-shapes seen in the Japonicas occur in this group also, and the colour range has widened considerably. ‘Anticipation’, for example, with its large, paeony-form, vivid crimson flowers, approaches in sumptuousness the Kunming Reticulatas.
The flowering season in this group is mostly mid-March to the end of April in southern England, though some kinds start earlier, others continue into May. Thanks to multiple budding, the flowers do not open simultaneously. Unfortunately, however, frost-damaged flowers do not drop as do those that have withered naturally, and spoil the display from the remaining bud if they are not removed. All are reasonably sun-tolerant but shade from the hottest sun is desirable, especially in areas with below-average rainfall. Mulching with leafmould or peat is beneficial and generous feeding with a good quality garden fertiliser essential.
The following selection of the many Williamsii clones now available in Britain includes those which are most widely grown at the present time. F.C.C.T, A.M.T. and H.C.T. indicate First Class Certificate, Award of Merit and Highly Commended after trial in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden at Wisley, Surrey. The plants in the trial grow on the far side of Battleston Hill.
‘Anticipation’. – Flowers paeony-form, rosy crimson, about 5 in. wide. Narrow habit. One of the best of the newer Williamsii camellias, with the appearance of a Reticulata hybrid and a long flowering season. L. Jury, New Zealand; F.C.C.T. 1974.
‘Bowen Bryant’. – Flowers clear rosy pink, semi-double, bowl-shaped. Erect, conical habit. Very hardy and suitable for northern gardens. E. G. Waterhouse, Australia, 1960. A.M.T. 1981.
‘Brigadoon’. – This is similar to ‘Donation’ and by some considered to be an improvement. It is just as hardy and floriferous, but probably not so tall-growing. Raised in California (1960). F.C.C.T. 1975.
‘Caerhays’. – See below under ‘George Blandford’.
‘Debbie’. – Flowers paeony-form, rosy pink, 3 to 4 in. wide, borne over a long period from late winter into May. L. Jury, New Zealand, 1965. H.C.T. 1981.
‘Donation’. – Flowers soft rosy pink, semi-double, 4 to 6 in. wide, very profusely borne. Vigorous, erect habit to 15 ft high, half that in width. Flowering season usually late March until early May. This, the best known and most widely available of the group, reigned supreme for some three decades but now has rivals. It was raised at Borde Hill in Sussex, and first exhibited in 1941. The Japonica parent was ‘Donckelarii’, an old cultivar with semi-double red flowers. F.C.C.T. 1974.
‘E. G. Waterhouse’. – The first of the group to have flowers of the formal double shape, light pink, about 4 in. wide, mostly opening rather late in the season, in April or early May. Raised by Professor Waterhouse of Australia (1954), this was a self-sown seedling of C. saluenensis (or rather of a plant imported from England under that name), presumably pollinated by a Japonica. ‘Bowen Bryant’, mentioned above, was another of these seedlings (see Rhod. Cam. Year Book, No. 19 (1965), pp. 60-62).
‘Elegant Beauty’. – Flowers anemone-centred, similar to those of C. japonica ‘Elegans’, which was one parent, but with the usual Williamsii foliage. Very floriferous. Its rather lanky habit makes it suitable for training on a wall. L. Jury, New Zealand, 1962. H.C.T. 1975.
‘Elsie Jury’. – Flowers deep pink, about 5 in. wide, between paeony-form and anemone-centred. Narrow habit. L. Jury, New Zealand, 1964. F.C.C.T. 1975.
‘George Blandford’. – Flowers paeony-form, deep clear pink, opening rather early in some seasons. ‘Caerhays’ is a sister seedling, both having ‘Lady Clare’ as the Japonica parent, but this has flowers of a lighter, less pure pink. For both see Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 91, figs 146-7 (1966). ‘George Blandford’ received an A.M.T. in 1974.
‘J. C. Williams’. – Flowers single, of good substance, light dog-rose pink with deeper shadings, opening wide, to 3 or 4 in. A very free-flowering shrub of fairly bushy habit, opening its buds over a long period. The type-clone of C. × williamsii, this was raised at Caerhays and was first exhibited in 1942. A.M.T. 1977. Unfortunately, under the influence of the former system of naming rhododendron hybrids, the name J. C. Williams was used to designate the group as a whole, with the result that not all the plants distributed under the name are the true clone; for portraits of this see Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 74, fig. 132 and Rhod. Cam. Year Book No. 24 (1970), pl. 14.
‘Jenefer Carlyon’. – Flowers semi-double, clear silvery pink. Bushy habit. Raised by Miss Gillian Carlyon at Tregrehan in 1962. A.M. 1984 and the Reginald Cory Cup to the raiser for the best hardy man-made hybrid shown that year. For a portrait see The Garden (Journ. R.H.S.), Vol. 111, p. 144 (1986). The Japonica parent was ‘C. M. Wilson’.
‘Mary Christian’. – Flowers single, cup-shaped, about 3 in. wide, light pink, usually opening rather early. Another Caerhays hybrid first exhibited in 1942. F.C.C.T. 1977. Of vigorous, erect habit. A parent of ‘Leonard Messel’.
‘Mary Larcom’. – Flowers single, opening wide, about 31⁄2 in. across, light pink. Spreading habit. Caerhays, 1961. A.M.T. 1975. ‘Rosemary Williams’, also single and released at the same time, has similar flowers of a deeper pink.
‘Mildred Veitch’. – Flowers between paeony-form and anemone-form, light pink, about 3 in. wide. A hybrid of C. japonica ‘Elegans’, so of the same parentage as ‘Elegant Beauty’, but of more compact habit. Messrs Robert Veitch and Sons, Exeter, 1962. F.C.C.T. 1979.
‘November Pink’. – Flowers single, about 31⁄2 in. wide, light crimson (Rose Madder), the first buds opening before Christmas, the last in April or even May. Caerhays; A.M. December 5, 1950. For a portrait see Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 76, fig. 191 (1951).
‘Saint Ewe’. – Flowers single, funnel-shaped, Phlox Pink (deeper than in ‘J.C. Williams’), opening late winter to early May. Tall, bushy habit, to 15 ft, at least at Caerhays, where it was raised (1947). F.C.C.T. 1974.
‘Water Lily’. – Flowers formal double with a high centre, light pink shaded lavender pink, the petals inrolled at the margin. New Zealand, 1967. A very attractive camellia, which has become popular here since first exhibited in 1974.
The following hybrids, although not belonging to C. × williamsii, are of the same order of hardiness, and have in common with it that C. saluenensis is in their parentage.
‘Dr Louis Polizzi’ (C. saluenensis × C. reticulata ‘Capt. Rawes’). – Flowers semi-double or of full paeony form, light pink. USA, 1969. The parentage is the same as that given for the much older ‘Salutation’ (see below). The same cross had been made some years earlier in New Zealand by Dr B. W. Doak, and one selection, named ‘Phyl Doak’, is succeeding well in Scotland. It is vigorous and compact, with widely opening, semi-double, clear pink flowers.
‘Francie L.’. – A hybrid of complex parentage, one parent being ‘Buddha’, for which see above under C. reticulata, and the other ‘Apple Blossom’, which is either a clone of C. saluenensis or a form of C. × williamsii. It has semi-double flowers of a rich rosy crimson, about 51⁄2 in. wide and, owing to the weight of the flowers and the rather lanky habit, it is best trained on a wall. USA, 1964. A.M.T. 1979.
‘Freedom Bell’. – A hybrid of undisclosed parentage, with the hardiness of a Williamsii. Flowers semi-double, with neatly arranged petals, bright red. Bushy habit. A hybrid of great promise, flowering from March to May or even June.
‘Grand Jury’ (C. saluenensis × ‘Salutation’). – Flowers paeony-form, apricot-pink, about 5 in. wide, opening fairly late in the season and moderately weatherproof. Spreading habit. L. Jury, New Zealand, 1964.
‘Innovation’ (C. × williamsii ‘Williams’ Lavender’ × C. reticulata cv). – Flowers paeony-form, about 41⁄2 in. wide, light crimson with bluish undertones. A hardy camellia with weatherproof flowers. USA, 1965. The first-named parent was raised in the USA from Caerhays seed and has single lavender-pink flowers.
‘Inspiration’ (C. reticulata wild form × C. saluenensis). – Flowers semi-double, not unlike those of ‘Donation’, but of a darker, more mauvish pink. This is considered by some to be superior to ‘Donation’, the flowers being more weatherproof. Raised at Exbury, Hants. Award of Garden Merit, 1984.
It is not surprising that camellia growers are unhappy about the stated parentage of this hybrid, which could be taken for a form of C. × williamsii.
‘Leonard Messel’ (C. reticulata wild form × C. × williamsii ‘Mary Christian’). – This outstanding Nymans hybrid is mentioned on page 487.
‘Salutation’ (C. saluenensis × C. reticulata ‘Capt. Rawes’). – Flowers light pink, semi-double with some petalodes in the central boss, rather ragged in form, about 5 in. wide. Spreading habit. A hardy camellia, but rather early flowering, in February or March. It is of interest as almost the first man-made hybrid camellia to be exhibited, receiving an Award of Merit in 1936, when shown from Borde Hill, Sussex, where it was raised. There has been much argument about the stated parentage – see Rhod. Cam. Year Book No. 11 (1957), pp. 111-16. But recent cytological study in the USA has confirmed that it is correct.