Dan Charvet is a camellia hybridizer working in northern California, near a small city called Fort Bragg. The climate of the area is practically frost-free, but at the same time cool and foggy because of proximity to the ocean. The nursery area is surrounded by conifer forests with Redwoods, Douglas Firs, Bishop pines and other trees. There are also patches of Pygmy Forest – areas of stunted conifers, huckleberries and rhododendrons that grow this way because of rare combination of chemical and structural properties of soil and soil horizons in these areas.
Dan called his place Heartwood Nursery. He has 6 greenhouses with approximately 10,000 plants. Every year Dan hand-pollinates around 2000 flowers, gets around 1000 seeds, 800 seeds germinate and approximately 600 survive long-term. Most of seedlings bloom in 5-7 years. At the end Dan registers on average 1 cultivar a year.
Dan’s selection criteria include resistance to petal blight, variegation and overall suitability of the plant to be a nice garden plant, not just a source of flowers for the show.
A new discovery for me: apparently bottom heat (delivered with a special electric pad) does make big difference for seedling growth. Here is a batch of regular seedlings without bottom heat:
And here is a batch of seedlings grown with bottom heat. The difference in vigor is obvious:
Dan mostly hybridizes Winter-flowering camellias, not Fall-flowering. There were just a few flowers this time in October. However there were many fruits, including very unusual fruits. For example this one has a size of a crabapple:
Variegated leaves – one of Dan’s interests:
Dan mostly mixes soil by himself, using 1:1 peat and fir bark (no perlite, surprisingly). However he also recommends “Sunshine MIX 1” with words “here is a mix that instantly makes anybody a nursery professional”:
Dan is going to deliver a lecture in Redwood City this Monday, October 27, 2014: