March in your garden : CHINA'S YELLOW CAMELLIA

As unlikely as it may seem, there is now a yellow camellia. It is not a new hybrid but a new wild species, Camellia chrysantha , which was discovered by Japanese botanists in the mountains of China, near the border of Burma. The first plants to reach California have just begun to flower; one is pictured at left. The flower is not large--a bit bigger than a quarter--but mature plants in China have arching branches covered with the tiny flowers (plants observed in China were about four to five feet tall and a little wider). Plants bloom in March. Some hybrids creasted with these and reticulata camellias have also been seen in China, but the only yellow in the flowers was near the center of the petals--and faint at that--so it remains to be seen whether hybridizing in this country will produce a yellow camellia that is more camellia-like. The foliage of C. chrysantha is equally distinctive--a rich, deep, glossy green with a maroon blush when it first unfurls. It is a handsome plant. Its frost-hardiness in unknown, but good guesses put its limit in the upper 20-degrees-Fahrenheit area, similar to that of a reticulata. If you want to be the first on your block to have this newcomer, or if you want to try your own hybridizing with them, you can obtain them now at Nuccio's Nurseries, 3555 Chaney Trail, Altadena, (818) 794-3383 (closed Wednesdays and Thursdays). Small plants (which will take several years to bloom) are being sold for an adventuresome $25.

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