In warmer areas fall is much less of an event than in the north. The number of trees turning color is far fewer, but there is one thing that makes fall and early winter special in warmer zones, and that is the arrival of the fall-blooming camellias. These lovely evergreens burst into flower just when the garden is beginning to rest, but many of them grow into large bushes – too large for the modern small garden, courtyard or patio.
As so often happens, enterprise steps into the gap, and as the result of a breeding effort to create smaller fall-blooming camellias, we have the arrival of the wonderful October Magic Ruby Camellia, a broad, small evergreen shrub that is covered all through fall and early winter with large, full blooms of a wonderful clear but deep red.
Growing October Magic Ruby Camellias
Imagine the Ruby Camellia glowing in your garden on those golden fall days, as this bush will. from an early age. Even young plants are covered in buds and blooms, and this plant soon develops into a broad bush, 3 to 4 feet tall, and up to 5 feet wide. This is perfect for a smaller garden, and where a lower plant is needed, since most camellia bushes grow between 6 and 20 feet tall, and they can grow to 10 feet across – far too large for today’s smaller gardens. This smaller-size plant is also perfect for a conservatory or cool sun-room, where it will bloom just when you are moving indoors after a summer of outdoor activities. This smaller size opens up many novel ways to use camellias in your garden, whether it is in beds, planter boxes, pots or in cool indoor spaces.
The Ruby Camellia has evergreen leaves 2 or 3 inches long, on upright, arching stems. It forms a broad, low shrub that is beautiful even when it is not blooming. It can be grown among other shrubs in a bed, planted in wooded areas, grown as an informal hedge or screen, or perhaps used to fill that awkward space that often happens on the north side of a house, between the wall and a pathway. It is perfect for planter boxes on a terrace, balcony or patio, or for growing in decorative pots that can be moved around the garden as you need to. In colder areas you can bring those pots indoors in early fall, enjoy the blooms inside, and keep your plants there until warmer weather returns in spring. The growing space for winter should be well-lit, out of direct sun, and as cool as possible, but above freezing. Then the plants can be returned outdoors, to begin their growth cycle over again.
The Ruby Camellia grows best in partial shade, perhaps with some morning sun, or the dappled shade from overhead trees. It will also grow well in continuous light shade, especially in hotter zones, so it is ideal against a north-facing wall, or in an easterly-facing aspect, where it will receive some morning sun. It can be grown in the open, or planted up against a wall, fence or trellis. If you want to save space, tie back the flexible branches against the trellis or fence, or onto wires on the wall, and spread it out as it grows up, creating a green covering and taking up just a few inches of width.
The Ruby Camellia grows best in acid soil, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If you don’t know your soil, test it with a simple kit or probe from the hardware store. If your neighbors are already growing camellias and azaleas in your garden, then you can too, without even needing a test. If your soil is too alkaline, then this small camellia fits perfectly into a pot or container, where it will grow perfectly for many years. Use a pot with a drainage hole, pot into soil blended for acid-loving plants, and use liquid camellia fertilizer for the best results. No pruning is needed, and this plant has no significant pests or diseases, making it very low-maintenance and easy to grow, once you have planted it in suitable soil in the right light.
History and Origins of the October Magic Ruby Camellia
The Ruby Camellia is the product of a breeding program by Robert M. Green Jr., at his nursery in Fairhope, Alabama. He set out to develop a new line of camellia bushes that were more compact, and bloomed over a longer period, than existing varieties. All his new bushes are collected together under the name October Magic. The Ruby Camellia began as one seedling among many, grown from seed gathered from many plants that Robert Green had been growing since 1992. In the fall of 2005, he selected one seedling from among 1,400 plants he had bred, and called it by his breeding number, ‘Green 02-003’. He tested it, and in 2014 he received a patent for his plant, under that name. For sale in nurseries it became the October Magic Ruby Camellia.
These new plants are always eagerly waited for by collectors and keen gardeners, so our stock will not last long. Now you can enjoy the latest product of the breeder’s art and have bright red flowers in your garden all fall, on a compact camellia bush. Or you will, but only if you order right away, because our stock will soon be gone.