Two Marthas CamelliaCamellia hybrid ‘Two Marthas’
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Camellia hybrid ‘Two Marthas’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Two Marthas Camellia grows rapidly into a broad, upright shrub that can be 10 feet tall and wide in time. This spectacular plant is smothered in October and November with large lavender-pink flowers with a bold yellow central cluster of stamens. Not only is this an outstanding winter-flowering camellia, but it is more cold-resistant than many others, and grows well throughout all of zone 7. As well, it is more heat and sun tolerant too, so it is the perfect choice if you live in the hottest zones, such as Florida, and your garden is sunnier than usually recommended for these shade-loving plants.
The Two Marthas Camellia should be grown in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic material. Mulch each year with lime-free compost and grow in soil with a pH between 5 and 6.5. If your soil is closer to 7, then treat your plant each spring and fall with chelated iron, especially if you see pale yellow new leaves in spring. In more alkaline soil, grow in a pot, using soil blended for acid-loving plants. This plant is generally free of pests or diseases, and it is fast-growing and vigorous, once you provide suitable soil and moisture.
Camellias are not difficult to grow, and these vigorous evergreen shrubs are worthy of places in every garden – if that were only possible. In reality they can only be grown in warmer states, and then only in partial shade in areas with good summer rainfall. At least, that is true of most of them, because when it comes to pushing the boundaries of camellia growing, one plant stands out for its ability to not only grow in colder areas, but to also tolerate and even enjoy more sun and heat than almost any other. This is the Two Marthas Camellia, a hybrid variety that is not only hardy and vigorous, but has stunning flowers in early winter, when most other plants are going to sleep.
The Two Marthas Camellia is an upright, dense and vigorous evergreen shrub, beginning life as a slender plant, but broadening with age, so that a mature bush will be between 6 and 12 feet tall, and having started a slim 3 feet wide, it can easily become as much as 10 feet across. Imagine what a spectacular vision that would be in full bloom. Even when not in bloom the dense foliage is handsome, and a perfect background in your garden for your summer-blooming plants. The glossy leaves are deep-green, and broadly oval, 3 or 4 inches long, with a softly-serrated edge. But of course, with camellias, we are here for the blossoms most of all, and the Two Marthas Camellia doesn’t disappoint.
Starting in fall in the far South, and a little later further north, the major blooming period for this shrub is October and November. In colder areas new blooms will tend to open during warmer spells and remain dormant during colder ones. Each blossom lasts about a week, and with the profusion of buds on the bush, flowering continues for weeks stretching into months. As these blooms come at such a quiet time in the garden, they are doubly welcome, but at any time these vibrant blossoms would catch our hearts. Each bloom is an open cluster of petals, 4 inches across. There are 8 broad, rounded outer petals creating a bowl, in which sits some smaller, narrower petals, all surrounding a large central column of bright yellow stamen. The petals are a delicious ‘strawberry ice-cream’ color, officially described as lavender pink. Whatever we call it, the color is vibrant and wonderful, and a bush in full bloom will be a gorgeous sight in your garden.
Camellias grow best in zones 8 and 9, but the Two Marthas Camellia will also grow well in zone 7, where a spot with some sun in the middle of the day, but shade in early morning and afternoon is best. Early sun after a cold night can heat the buds too quickly and damage them. Hot afternoon sun can burn the foliage, so take some time finding that perfect spot in your garden – it’s worth it. In zones 8 and 9 light shade all day is ideal, but the second thing so great about the Two Marthas Camellia is its resistance to much more sun than almost any other camellia, and its resistance to heat too. So even in zone 10 you can grow this beauty, and even if the spot is ‘too sunny for camellias’, this one will thrive.
As for soil, moist, well-drained soil, rich in organic material, is best. Even more important is the pH, or acid level, which should be between 5 and 6.5. You can find out your pH level with a simple kit or probe from a garden center or hardware store, or simply look around your neighborhood – if your neighbors have healthy-looking camellias or azaleas, with deep-green leaves and lots of blooms, then you can have the same.
If you do live in an area with alkaline soil, then there is still a simple way for you to grow the Two Marthas Camellia, and all our other camellias too. Plant them in pots or planter boxes, making sure they have a drainage hole, a very necessary feature. Use a potting soil designed for acid-loving plants, and also use fertilizer for camellias or azaleas. Keep them well-watered all year round, watering thoroughly whenever the top ½ inch of soil has dried out. It’s that easy, and with their fibrous root system, camellias will thrive for years and years in pots, becoming more and more beautiful as they do so.
The Two Marthas Camellia is a hybrid plant created by the famous camellia expert and breeder Dr. William L. Ackerman, who worked at the National Arboretum, in Washington, D.C. He created many of the hardiest camellias we have, as well as many fall and early winter bloomers, like this one. To create it he made a cross between a Japanese camellia called Camellia sasanqua ‘Ô-nishiki’ and a plant of a tree-like camellia with white flowers from India and Nepal, Camellia kissii. He collected these seeds, and among the resulting seedlings he found one he named ‘Two Marthas’, although we don’t know who those two ladies were. It produced is first blooms in 1973, and it was officially listed in 1982.
We are pleased to have found some top-quality plants of this reliable camellia, which extends the growing range into both cooler and hotter areas. These special plants are always in high demand from keen gardeners, so order now, because our limited stock will soon be gone.