Setsu Gekka CamelliaCamellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’
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Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Setsu Gekka Camellia has very large pure-white blossoms with a center of yellow stamens. The petals are fluted and wavy, giving this plant a unique, exotic look. It blooms in fall and early winter, with blossoms opening in succession over many weeks. Growing up to 10 feet tall, its open, semi-weeping form makes it attractive in informal settings, among trees, in tubs, and spread out against a trellis. The glossy, dark-green evergreen foliage is always handsome, making this a great year-round garden shrub.
The Setsu Gekka Camellia can be grown outdoors from zone 7, and in planters anywhere, bringing plants into a cool, bright place for the coldest months. Morning sun and afternoon shade, or light full shade, gives the best results.The ideal soil is rich, moist and well-drained, with a pH below 6.5. Adding lime-free compost to the soil, and as annual mulch, is valuable, and keep plants watered during dry weather. Grow in a tub or large pot, in soil for acid-loving plants, if you don’t have suitable soil.
Imagine yourself in a garden in Japan. It is a winter evening. There is a full moon shining in a clear, black sky. A light fall of snow has dusted the trees and turned the ground into a silver lake. In a corner stand an arching bush whose leaves are black in the darkness. Glowing among those leaves are swirling bowls of white – as white as the snow on the ground. The Japanese gardener beside you says in a low voice, “Setsu Gekka” – Snow, Moon and Flowers. You can capture such a moment in your own garden, when you grow the Setsu Gekka Camellia. This fall and early winter flowering sasanqua camellia has large snow-white flowers with elegant fluted petals, and it blooms in profusion just when we think that the garden has finished for the season – a wonderful surprise that will return each year, bringing hope and promise to the darkest days.
The Setsu Gekka Camellia is an evergreen bush with arching branches, growing 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. It is a sasanqua camellia, and this type grows as much as 12 inches a year, with an open form, and arching to semi-weeping branches. It is more graceful than the ordinary Japanese camellia, which can look dense and heavy in contrast. The leaves are leathery, and 2 to 3 inches long, with a smooth, glossy surface and they are dark green. They are oval, ending in a broad point, with fine soft serrations along the edges. The foliage stays green all year round.
Flower buds form over summer, and blooming normally begins in October, continuing with a steady flow of open flowers into December. Each bloom is 3 to 4 inches in diameter, with a circle of around 10 petals, in pure white. The petals are full, with an irregular undulating margin, typically with a notch in its center. The petals undulate and flow in a charming way, and this plant is sometimes called ‘Wavy White’ or ‘Fluted White’ because of this feature. In the center of the bloom is a prominent cluster of bright-yellow stamens, which make the petals look even whiter. These elegant and beautiful blooms are among the best available in this type of camellia, and they are also among the largest, putting on a stunning display every fall.
With its open, semi-weeping form, this camellia fits well into modern, casual landscapes. It is easier to use that most Japanese camellias, which are often heavy and dense, and look too formal for some settings. Plant the Setsu Gekka Camellia in garden beds or in woodland areas, where it will be right at home. The open form makes this plant very easy to train against a wall or fence, as an espalier, tying it back so that it takes up almost no room in the bed, but covers a large area. This is a wonderful way to grow these plants, especially if you don’t have a lot of room, and it really shows off their blooms well. It could also be grown in a large tub or planter, a good way to grow it if you don’t have suitable soil in your garden, or you need to give it some protection in winter.
The Setsu Gekka Camellia will grow in zone 7, where it should be planted in a sheltered area, and all through the warmer zones into zone 10.
Sasanqua camellia like the Setsu Gekka Camellia will tolerate more sun than other kinds, especially in zone 7. In hotter areas some afternoon shade is beneficial, and it will also grow in light full shade, such as beneath deciduous trees, or on a bright north wall. The soil should be rich, moist, well-drained and acidic, with a pH no higher than 6.5, and preferably lower, down to 5.0. Enrich the planting site with lime-free compost and use it as mulch. If you have alkaline soil this plant can be grown in a tub or planter, using potting soil suitable for acid-loving plants.
Cool and moist soil, but not wet, is the way to grow camellias. Mulch each spring, and water regularly during dry weather. When training against a trellis, tie in stems when they are young, spreading them out as they grow. Pruning is normally not needed, but if you do need to trim, do it after flowering ends, before new spring growth develops. You can also prune away lower branches and create a more tree-like form over time. Usually pest and disease free, camellias are easy to grow once the soil and light are correct.
There are two kinds of camellias – the Japanese and the sasanqua. The Japanese camellia has always been more widely grown, probably because it was introduced into Europe and America first. Called Sazankwa in Japan, Camellia sasanqua was once used as a source of oil, extracted from the seeds. Numerous ornamental varieties have been known for centuries. The Snow, Moon and Flowers variety – ‘Setsugekka’ in Japanese – was listed in Japanese nursery catalogues in the early 20th century, and it seems to have been developed around 1898.
Sasanqua camellias should be grown a lot more. After all, there are many bushes that bloom in spring, but very few that bring us flowers in fall. There is a growing interest in beautiful plants like the Setsu Gekka Camellia, so our stock will go soon – order right away and bring magic back into your garden.