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I’m never quite sure about camellias. On the one hand, when they look like this, they’re fabulous.


But they all too often look like this.


This is classic frost damage: something to which camellias, or some varieties at least, are particularly prone. You don’t need much: this one is in what I call the chicken garden I look after just down the road from me in south Somerset, where we have only very mild frosts – in fact I didn’t even notice the one that caused this damage.

It ruins the display completely: not just browning the petals but throwing them to the floor like a lot of used tissue papers. The odd thing is that another pink variety next door, with larger flowers, came through all but unscathed. So it’s clearly something to which some types are more prone than others.


This one came with the garden so nobody quite knows what kind it is. Shame, or I would have been able to warn everyone off it. It’s small-flowered and a rather saccharine shade of pink: not my favourite.

As you’ve no doubt gathered by now, this is a plant I find hard to love. But nonetheless I have been assiduously dead-heading the worst offenders and take off a bucketful of browning pink petals every time I visit, in a (largely vain) attempt to keep it looking moderately acceptable for a day or two at least. I shall be roundly glad when it’s finally finished.

I am very gently trying to persuade the owner that its display is so liable to tarnish and never quite look what it should that it should become an ex-camellia in fairly short order. She’s quite in favour of a quick and humane end to the misery but I’m not so sure her mother is. Oh dear: I fear we’re stuck with damp brown used tissues for some time to come.