Harbor Lights CamelliaCamellia japonica ‘Harbor Lights’
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Camellia japonica ‘Harbor Lights’
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The Harbor Lights Camellia is a very rare variety that is almost never offered for sale, despite its outstanding beauty. The large blooms are a magnificent bright red, with a circle of flat petals supporting a swirling pom-pom center where the petal tips are flecked with white highlights. With abundant buds, flowering lasts 6 to 8 weeks of the year, in early to mid-spring. This upright evergreen bush has beautiful glossy foliage that always looks great, and it grows steadily into a shrub over 6 feet tall, with branches to the ground.
The Harbor LIghts Camellia is hardy from zone 7 to zone 9, and it will grow in sheltered spots in zone 6 as well. Grow it in partial shade, ideally with morning sun and afternoon shade. The soil should be rich, moist and well-drained, and acidic. The pH value of the soil needs to be below 6.5, but if not, this plant grows well in a pot, using potting soil blended for acid-loving plants. Pests and diseases are rare, and pruning is not needed. Water regularly during dry spells, use organic mulch and fertilize potted plants.
The north might have the Snow Queen, but camellias are the Queens of Winter in the South. Their beauty has been admired for over 200 years, and they remain incredibly popular for their magnificent blossoms, and their beautiful evergreen foliage. During those years many varieties have been created, but the Harbor Lights Camellia shines out as something exceptional. Like glowing beacons, the huge round blooms are a shining red, with white highlights glistening on their inner petals like lights on a twinkling distant shore. Flowering in early spring on a bush with exceptional winter hardiness, this upright plant will look magnificent in your garden or in a large pot. It is one of the rarest varieties, hardly ever seen for sale, so we are proud to be able to offer you such a glorious bush.
The Harbor Lights Camellia is a dense, bushy, upright evergreen growing over 6 feet tall, probably reaching 10 feet in time, with a width of 3 to 5 feet. Camellias have beautiful leaves, which are smooth, glossy and deep green. They are thick and substantial, around 3 inches long, with tiny serrations along the edge and a broadly pointed tip. Out of flower this bush is still a magnificent plant.
By fall and through the winter you will see the round flower buds swelling, growing slowly, filled with promise. Depending on where you live and how you grow it, you will see the first blooms between March and April. Because this bush opens its buds in succession it blooms for 6 to 8 weeks, constantly opening new blooms as the old ones fade. The blooms are medium sized to large, 4 to 5 inches across, and they are of the type called ‘Anemone-Flowered’. In this type of bloom there is a full circle of flat petals around the outside, with a center made up of many narrow petals (called ‘petaloids’). These are twisted and curled, forming a large pom-pom in the center of the bloom. The color is a rich, glowing light-red of great beauty, and the central petaloids are frosted on their edges with snow white.
The Harbor Lights Camellia is perfect for growing as a specimen around your home or out in your beds. Place it by a door or entrance, or at the turning point of a path. Plant it under deciduous trees in a wooded part of your garden, or, really, anywhere you can. It is also perfect for growing in a planter or pot in any part of the country. Keep it in a cool, well-lit place during the winter months, where it will bloom to perfection, unmarked by rain or storms.
The rare Harbor Lights Camellia is considered cold resistant, so it certainly grows well from zone 7 to 9. It probably also grows well in warmer parts of zone 6.
Grow the Harbor Lights Camellia with morning sun and afternoon shade. It will also grow in the light dappled shade beneath deciduous trees, and on the north side of a building, in full shade but with a clear sky overhead. It thrives in rich, moist, well-drained soil with plenty of organic material added to it. The soil must be acidic, with a pH value of no more than 6.5, and preferably lower, down to 5.5. If you haven’t grown camellias before you can test your soil easily, or see if your neighbors are growing camellias, rhododendrons or azaleas easily. If they are, you can too.
If your soil is too alkaline, or you live in a colder zone, grow this plant in a large pot. Use potting soil blended for acid-loving plants and it will thrive for years.
Feed potted plants through spring and early summer with liquid fertilizer for acid-loving plants. Don’t feed later as this can reduce blooming. Mulch plants in the ground in spring with lime-free organic material, to feed them, conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Water regularly, especially during hot weather. Pests and diseases are normally not an issue, and camellias are actually easy to grow once you have the light and soil right. Pruning is not usually needed or desirable, but if you need to trim, do it immediately after flowering, so your bush has plenty of time to develop its flower buds.
The Japanese camellia, Camellia japonica, has been grown in the South since before 1800, when it was introduced from Japan and found to thrive there. Since then many, many varieties have been created, mostly by the thousands of barely-known amateur growers around the world. The variety called ‘Harbor Lights’ is a perfect example of that. Mark Cannon of Dothan, Alabama managed a grocery business before retiring and concentrating on his Ma-Dot-Cha Hobby Nursery for the next 30 years. He and his wife had an enormous collection of camellias, and they sold stem cuttings to growers all around the world. He also wrote articles for specialized magazines and bred camellias as well. We don’t have any details of how he created ‘Harbor Lights’, but it was officially released in 1962 with a photograph on the back cover of the Camellia Journal. The song, Harbor Lights, was a big hit for The Platters in 1960. Since its introduction this camellia has remained incredibly rare, but enormously desirable. ‘
We really searched for plants of this rare camellia, which is almost never available. You will be the only person you know who owns one, and you will treasure it. Avid camellia collectors will soon smell out our stock, and these plants will very soon all be gone. Order now, while we still have some left, because we don’t know when we will ever see the Harbor Lights shine again.