Cold-hardy 'Cleopatra' grows into a small multitrunked tree with lavender-pink blooms and a shape similar to a crepe myrtle.
Sue and Reid Crider of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, know this well. In 1972, their family began training a pair of 'Mine-No-Yuki' (aka 'White Doves') sasanquas to grow flat against a brick wall--an art known as espalier. They carefully pruned each spring and summer to limit size and also tied stray branches to the wall. Now a flurry of white blossoms powder the foliage for weeks each fall. Neighbors take notice. "When people find out where we live, they'll say, 'Oh, you live at the house with the white camellias,' " says Reid.
If espalier isn't your style, though, relax--sasanquas are extremely versatile. For example, dwarf types are wonderful for foundation plantings, berms, low borders, or massing at the foot of taller plants, such as glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum). Upright forms can be clipped into hedges, used for tall screens, or pruned into tree form for use in courtyards, corner plantings, small yards, and formal beds.
Color and Fragrance Too
Depending on the selection and where you live, sasanquas can bloom any time from late summer through autumn and into winter. (A personal favorite, red-flowered 'Yuletide,' blooms around Christmastime.) Flowers may be single, semidouble, or double, usually with a central burst of bright yellow stamens. Some exude a pleasant tea scent--not surprising, as sasanqua is closely related to the tea plant (C. sinensis). Colors range from cherry red to rose to shell pink to fairest white. Individual flowers live but a short time, shattering into a storm of falling petals. Abundant new flowers soon replace them, though, and the carpet of petals at the foot of the shrubs only adds to the spectacle.
Suited to all areas except the Tropical South, sasanquas are a cinch to grow. They love summer heat and can take full sun or light shade. Give them moist, acid, well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter. They're not quite as cold hardy as common camellias, though. In the Upper South, plant them in places sheltered from winter wind and sun, or keep them in pots in cool greenhouses over winter.
Sasanquas may lack the fame of common camellias, but you certainly couldn't call them weak sisters. Plant these classic beauties in your garden, and I guarantee that people will notice.
This article is from the November 2002 issue of Southern Living.