Camellia have a reputation for being difficult, but most varieties are hardy and if you grow them in a sheltered spot, possibly close to a wall or protected by nearby shrubs, they should give you glossy foliage all year round and beautiful, blousy blooms during the spring, in all shades of pink and some white or red.
Grow them in pots in ericaceous compost and they shouldn’t let you down. The common camellia, C. japonica, produces spectacular single red blooms in mid to late spring and is best in borders, as it grows to an impressive 9m.
C. ‘Leonard Messel’ is smaller and ideal for colder gardens on acid soil in a lightly shaded border, where it is not exposed to early morning sun.
It should do well in a large pot.
For a classic look, go for C. x williamsii, which bears showy white to dark pink flowers on an evergreen shrub. Good varieties include ‘Anticipation’, which bears crimson flowers and grows to 4m, and ‘Donation’, with its rose-pink flowers.
Camellias can be pruned after flowering to keep the plant tidy or compact, although some have an arching open habit and aren’t improved by pruning.