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The camellias that do everything...even bloom for Christmas; sasanquas.

Luscious flower color isn't the only virtue of sasanqua camellias. They're also neat (small leaves give them a tailored look); they thrive outdoors in most of the West's mild-winter regions; they bloom fall into winter, when few other garden plants do; and they're the most versatile of the camellia clan.

Right now, while many sasanquas are in bloom, is a good time to buy them for holiday gifts or to plant in the garden. Nurseries carry them in 1-gallon ($5 to $6) or 5-gallon cans ($15 to $25), including C. hiemalis and C. vernalis varieties sold as sasanquas.

Forms vary from stiff, upright, and bushy to low, spreading, and vine-like. You can find varieties to plant in containers; to use as low borders, ground covers, or informal hedges; to train as espaliers; to drape in hanging baskets; or to trim as bonsai. The chart on page 92 offers 19 suggestions, from early to late bloomers.

Many varieties grow as small (1-1/2- to 3-foot) shurbs; use them for low borders, in front of taller shrubs, or spilling over low walls. Fast-growing, upright kinds such as 'Hana-Jiman' make excellent border or background shrubs; they will reach 10 to 15 feet high in as many years. Slow growers such as 'Jean May' typically reach 6 to 8 feet high.

Many sasanquas can be trained against a wall or frame as espaliers. Compact and low-growing kinds like 'Shishi-Gashira' perform well in hanging baskets or as a ground cover. All do well in containers.

some gardeners find the flowers flimsy and shatter-prone, but the blooms are so numerous that plants put on a show for a month or longer.

Fragile-looking but tough

Sasanquas may look hot-house tender, but mature plants can survive temperatures near 0[deg.] (flower buds are damaged below 20[deg.]. On coldest nights, shelter young plants.

In desert and hot inland areas, you'll need to cater to them a bit: choose a site with only morning sun, amend soil generously with organic matter before planting, mulch, and water frequently.

In coastal areas or where days are frequently overcast, plant in full sun.

Soil and planting. Where topsoil is thin or nonexistent, dig an extra-wide (2 feet for a 1-gallon plant) planting hole and work in a generous amount of composted fir bark or similar organic material. In contianers, use a commercial potting soil.

Set the plant 1 to 2 inches above the original container soil level. Avoid piling soil or mulch over the crown (the area just above branching roots, where the trunk begins).

Watering and feeding. In general, keep a 2-inch-thick mulch around plants, and keep soil moist but not soggy. in some coastal and Northwest areas, established sasanquas need additional water only during extended heat waves or drought. In the desert, frequent irrigation is necessary, especially during heat spells.

Where soil and water are alkaline, use an acid fertilizer according to directions on the product label.

Pruning and pests. Pinching is all that's necessary to start young plants in the right direction, or to maintain the form of an established plant. If more shaping is needed, prune after flowering.

If spider mites attack plants, wash them off with a spray of soapy water, then rinse leaves with clean water.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1985
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