Christmas Camellia

'Yuletide' will help you welcome the holidays with its warm red flowers and elegant dark green leaves.
Gene B. Bussell

Garden designer Frances Parker of Beaufort, South Carolina, loves 'Yuletide' camellias. She says, "If you want red flowers in your garden for Christmas, plant this lustrous evergreen. It's carefree."

A Beautiful Solution
Truth be told, camellias are easy plants for any landscape. 'Yuletide' (Camellia x vernalis 'Yuletide') is an especially versatile sasanqua hybrid.  

Would you like to define a space in your garden? Its small leaves and upright form make it a fine choice for formal and informal hedges. This plant grows slowly and can be easily clipped, so it's simple to maintain.

Do you have a blank wall? It is also excellent when used as an espalier. Camellias can be purchased already trained on frames and ready to plant. Do you need an evergreen as a backdrop in a flowerbed? It makes a lush screen for the back of the border. How about an accent in your garden? This plant can also be pruned into a lollipop-shaped topiary.

If you have poor, rocky soil, plant it in a large terra-cotta pot, and it will live happily on your patio for years. No room? Keep it trained and clipped as a bonsai on your deck. What more could you ask from a camellia?

Plays Well With Others
When used in foundation plantings, this beauty's smaller leaves help it to both blend and contrast with other plants. The fine-textured leaves and red berries of nandina (Nandina domestica) complement the foliage and flowers of 'Yuletide.' Evergreens such as 'Little Gem' magnolias, boxwoods, monkey grass, Asian star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum), and autumn fern also make good companions.

For contrast, try using selections of oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) such as 'Snowflake,' 'Pee Wee,' and 'Snow Queen.' The late-fall color of the foliage and their chocolate brown, exfoliating bark go well with the blooms and leaves of 'Yuletide.' Other coarse-textured evergreens to use include fatsia (Fatsia japonica) and cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior).

With its red and green holiday colors, 'Yuletide' mingles well with just about everything in the garden. So if your yard needs some Christmas cheer, consider this camellia.

"Christmas Camellia" is from the December 2003 issue of Southern Living.