One December morning (to be precise on the morning of December 9, 2009), I went to my garden and saw this beautiful scene: a Camellia sasanqua ‘Shikoku Stars’ under the frost. Don’t you think it is a Winter Wonderland? This camellia is actually not a cultivar but a selection of C. sasanqua growing in the forest in the northern part of Shikoku Island. It was collected and propagated by David or Clifford Parks from Camellia Forest Nursery:
C. x hiemalis ‘Kira-shiro-kantsubaki’. 吉良白寒椿. Names means “Kira’s White Winter camellia”. Released in 1960s by Kira Firm of Nishio City.
Medium-compact, well-formed spreading plant with double white flowers of pretty shape. A modest but reliable seed producer.
I use it in my hybridization program because of habit, good shape of a double flower and seed production.
Comparison with other double white flowers:
Smaller than ‘Asakura’.
Larger and has better shape than ‘Paradise Little Liane’.
Less full than Seikaiha.
More interesting shape than ‘Silver Dollar’. Less bright white comparing to ‘Silver Dollar’.
Somewhat smaller than ‘White Doves’.
More interesting shape than ‘Dwarf Shishi’.
This new little camellia looks very unusual for anybody except probably a hardcore Camellia botanist. The flowers of ‘Tiny Gem’ are tiny, stamens have orangish tint, small dark leaves are unusually serrated, stem nodes and internodes do not look like anything in japonica-sasanqua-reticulata world. In addition, ‘Tiny Gem’s’ growth habit is chaotic and the plant requires full shade to grow well.
According to Tom Nuccio, the originator of ‘Tiny Gem’, this plant is likely to be a seedling of C. fraterna, a species from Theopsys section of Camellia genus. Now if we look into Ming Tien Lu’s book about camellia species, we find that Theopsys clade is very distant from Paracamellia clade where C. sasanqua belongs. In fact, Theopsys is much closer to tea plant – Camellia sinensis of Thea section of the genus.
Therefore it is unlikely I can ever cross any relative of C. sasanqua with ‘Tiny Gem’. So I don’t need this cultivar. But if you like strange compact plants for your shady patio, this plant might be just right for you. If you live in northern California and want to get this plant from me – see the details at ANNUAL GIVEAWAY OF CAMELLIAS
Camellia oleifera is a relative of Camellia sasanqua. This gorgeous anemony-form ‘Jaune’ cultivar with a ball of yellow petaloids is very rare in the United States. Three years ago I got a scion in our local camellia club, grafted it, and finally it is blooming in my garden.
A British horticulturalist Jennifer Trehane in her camellia encyclopedia mentioned doubts whether this plant a true C. oleifera. I second this: the leaves, stems, bark (and of course petaloids) are different from other oleifera seedlings and hybrids I have in my garden. Some DNA analysis is needed to be sure.
I mentioned this sasanqua in an article Camellias for Dwarfs and Elves that was published in American Camellia Yearbook 2011:
‘Jewel Box’ is the smallest of sasanqua cultivars – its typical leaf is just 30×12 mm as comparing to a more regular leaves of sasanqua cultivar ‘Jean May’ that measures 62×28 mm or a typical Camellia japonica leaf of ‘Kamo Honnami’ that measures 90×60 mm. ‘Jewel Box’ originated in Nuccio’s Nurseries, California. It produces a lot of somewhat wavy single white flowers, sometimes with a pink tint on the border. It appears this cultivar was used to decorate Japanese garden in Huntington Library and Gardens in Sam Marino, California. This garden has the healthiest and best maintained ‘Jewel Box’ planted between rocks along the sidewalk.
‘Jewel Box’ does produce seeds and these seeds sprout, so the cultivar can be used for breeding. However the seedlings are very delicate and easily die when overwatered. The plant’s root system is not very strong, so it is important not to overwater, over-dry or over-fertilize the plant. When grown under sub-optimal condition, this plant frequently shows chrolosis (yellow blotches on leaves) or even have deformed undeveloped leaves. It is difficult to say whether it is a genetic feature, or a result or some virus infection that are frequent among camellia cultivars and result in blotched flowers in pink camellias.
‘Jewel Box’ grows slowly but can be grafted, although it is not the easiest plant to propagate by grafting. Some grafts initially take, but stop growing next year and do not grow beyond stunted stage with a lot of almost opened buds, but no real sprouts. Some other grafts not only take and grow, but develop several large leaves before going back to the size of leaves normal for ‘Jewel Box’. ‘Jewel Box’ may be an interesting subject for a researcher to try different plant hormones – synthetic auxins, gibberellin, etc.
Yuri Panchul. Camellias for Dwarfs and Elves. American Camellia Yearbook 2011