Australian Camellias Enjoyed in America

Text by Bradford King 

Today people travel the world on business and pleasure. We are aware the economy is global. People receive news flashes on television of disasters. In America we are up to date when there are major fires and droughts in Australia and we are aware of famous Australian movie stars Nicole Kidman, Simon Baker, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman. At this time in history we can more easily exchange ideas, poliitcs, and commercial products between countries more than any other time in history with the exception of plant material like camellia flowers and plants.

The 1998 Quarantined Act protects Australia against introduced pests and diseases including plant pathogens like flower blight (Ciborinia camelliae). As you know Australia is one of a few countries free from flower blight. This law prohibits camellia flowers and foliage from being imported into Australia. Likewise American agriculture restrictions and quarantine make it difficult for new camellia introductions from other countries to make it to America. We understand and support the protection these laws provide. Let me share with you the camellia cultivars originating in Australia that are widely grown and appreciated in America.

Margaret Davis

'Margaret Davis' CA Gallery

‘Margaret Davis’ – CA Gallery

One of the very best C. japonicas is ‘Margaret Davis’, photo No. 1. It is the beautiful sport of another well known Australian cultivar ‘Aspasia Macarthur’. ‘Margaret Davis’ is a creamy white peony form flower with dashes of rose red with petals edged in bright vermillion. It is a medium flower that blooms in mid season on a bushy upright plant. It was introduced in 1961 by Mr Davis who named it for his wife. Margaret was the founding President of the Garden Clubs of Australia and wrote gardening books until age 90. This camellia has been distributed throughout the camellia world and is a popular and successful show winner here in the USA. For example, the Australian Camellia Research Society Trophy has been awarded to ‘Margaret Davis’ fifteen times in the last twenty seven years as the best bloom of Australian origin at the American Camellia Society annual meeting show.

John and Phyllis Hunt

'John Hunt'  - CA Gallery

‘John Hunt’ – CA Gallery

Two fantastic C. reticulata hybrids that came from Australia to America were bred by John Hunt. He named his very large pink semi double to loose peony flower with veined petals ‘John Hunt’, Picture No. 2. It is widely grown in America and is a frequent winner in American camellia shows. When gibbed this very large bloom becomes even more impressive. ‘John Hunt’ gets its show winning abilities from the pollen parent ‘LASCA Beauty’ and the lovely pink color, very large size and loose peony form from both parents. The seed parent ‘Arch of Triumph’ is a beautiful cultivar introduced by Feathers in 1970 that seems to have retired from entering camellia shows.

'Phyllis Hunt' - CA Gallery

‘Phyllis Hunt’ – CA Gallery

The other flower he introduced has a deep pink on the petal edges shading to lighter pink with a white center. This peony flower he named ‘Phyllis Hunt’. It grows slowly in an open spreading manner and is shy bloomer for me in Southern California. It has a very beautiful flower with 30 or more petals in tones of pink and white.


We are fortunate to have four lovely non reticulata hybrids bred in Australia that are popular in America.

E G Waterhouse Variegated - Bradford King

E G Waterhouse Variegated – Bradford King


One of the first to make it across the Pacific was ‘E.G. Waterhouse’. Professor E. G. Waterhouse bred a number of cultivars. The most well know is this light pink formal double which bears his name. It was one of the very first formal double hybrids. ‘E. G. Waterhouse Variegated’, is perhaps even more popular as the soft pink with white markings makes a lovely flower.


C.pitardii hybrid 'Adorable'

C.pitardii hybrid ‘Adorable’ – Barry Di Salvia

Another beautiful formal double hybrid we see is ‘Adorable’. The bright pink pitardi seedling bred by Sebire certainly lives up to its name. When visiting Nuccio’s Nursery in Altadena, California, with my wife Lynn; the first thing she said when first seeing it in bloom was “What an adorable flower.”


The medium full peony light pink flower that shades to a paler pink centre of ‘Sweet Emily Kate’,  is popular in a hanging basket due to its pendulous growth habit and lovely fragrance. It was introduced by Ray Garnett.

'Sweet Emily Kate' - CA Gallery

‘Sweet Emily Kate’ – CA Gallery

Missing in America

In America we are familiar with camellia breeders, Thomas Savige, Bob Cherry and Kurt Boesen.

'Wirlinga Belle' - CA Gallery

‘Wirlinga Belle’ – CA Gallery

Thomas James Savige is best known in the camellia world for the prodigious work he did in compiling the three volumes of “The International Camellia Register”with its descriptions of 32,000 cultivars and 267 species of camellias. He is also known for breeding small cluster flowering hybrid camellias. Many new cultivar names begin with “Wirlinga”. For example ‘Wirlinga Belle” was his first introduction in 1973. Unfortunately few of these cultivars can be found in the U.S.A.


Another well known Australian hybridiser is Bob Cherry, founder of the Paradise Garden and Nursery, and who bred and introduced numerous C. sasanqua cultivars usually with the first name Paradise, e.g. ‘Paradise Belinda’. They are sun tolerant camellias that make wonderful landscape plants, however, very few have made it to the States.

'Paradise Belinda' - CA Gallery

‘Paradise Belinda’ – CA Gallery

Kurt Boesen, of Dancraft Nurseries, has originated and recently registered two dozen c. sasanqua cultivars in Australia. They are known as “DAN’s Collection” as DAN appears as part of each cultivar’s name. Unfortunately none have made it yet to America.

What else are we missing?

We enjoy travelling to Australia visiting the architectural wonder of the Sydney Opera House and walking through the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens. We are enthralled with the native wild life especially the marsupials and beautiful birds. We are awestruck by Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef with its abundant coral and fish. We love the friendly outgoing people and the enthusiasm for “Football” (soccer to us). We appreciate and note when the camellias that have made it to American soil were introduced: ‘E.G. Waterhouse’ 1954, ‘Margaret Davis’ 1961, ‘Sweet Emily Kate’ 1987, ‘John Hunt’ 1988, ‘Adorable’ 1997, and ‘Phyllis Hunt’ 1998).

But what other outstanding camellias have we missed since 1998?

Editor’s Note: Bradford King has kindly provided us with this article explaining his love of some of our more famous camellias that have made the big stage across the world. Bradford is the Editor of the American Camellia Society Yearbook, and has written numerous articles for their journals. Many thanks Bradford.

from Camellia News No. 192 – Winter 2013


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