Camellia japonica ‘Prince Frederick William’ is the most popular camellia in Australia – for very good reason – and all those people can’t be wrong?
WHAT IS IN A NAME? Camellia japonica ‘Prince Frederick William”. This is such a beautiful plant with a very rich history – which applies personally to me too.
When we first came to Australia in the 1970’s I was fortunate to live next door to an American botanist and, although not working in horticulture then, I was deeply interested in plants and she gifted me this camellia. It moved with me dozens of times, in increasingly larger pots, until, eventually, I had a garden of my own to plant it in – where it has been very happy in a south facing spot, for the past 15 years, in my north coast Mullumbimby garden.
THIS CULTIVAR HAS BEEN AROUND FOR MORE THAN 100 YEARS – 149 YEARS TO BE PRECISE. It was developed by plantsman Silas Sheather in 1872 in a nursery on land that was originally part of Elizabeth Farm on the Parramatta River, Sydney. He was considered to be the most successful raiser of camellias in his time, with many of his cultivars still being grown all over the world today. He created the original Camellia Grove Nursery, that still exists at Glenorie today. (Oh, the happy hours I have spent there when I had a landscape design business and I could spend other people’s money on plants!)
NOTE: I’m not sure why and English migrant from Sussex in the 19th century named this plant after a Prussian Crown Prince, but I would love to find out?
HOW TO LOOK AFTER ME: Where this plant comes from tells you a lot about how to look after it – an understorey pine forest edge plant from Asia (japonica means coming from Japan). So, it requires a mildly acid soil 5-6pH, semi-shade- no sun after 12 noon, on the cool side of the house in a free draining loam. I feed mine once a year with a complete organic fertilizer. Most camellias that you see struggling – brown bud drop and bronzed leaves – are in too much sun!!
The flower bud will open up into an almost flat, perfectly symmetrical flower of pale pink petals and will keep on flowering from May to September. It has a fast growing, bushy upright habit with beautiful glossy green leaves which, in themselves, are a bonus.
NOTE: Pruning – be aware that all camellias flower on one year old growth so if you prune them back really hard you wont get any flowers next season. They don’t like wet feet. A light trim is all that is needed after flowering. Every garden should have one!