Lots of things are grown in containers which really never should be and lots of things are also made to seem very complex in gardening which are not really at all.

Camellias are great in containers and growing them that way is very simple.


This morning I picked these blooms from a Camellia called ‘Margaret Davis’.  A bit of a more prosaic a name than the ‘Marguerite Gautier’ of the Dumas novel! 

Having cut flowers on the desk as you work is an under rated lifeline. The psychological lift is extraordinary and houseplants just don’t quite do it.  The plant they came from was given to me 23 years ago by Dr. James Smart, a plantsman in North Devon.I always think of him when ‘Margaret’ flowers and cut a flower or two.

He gave me my first horticultural opportunity. I needed 6 month’s pre college experience and he took me on at the princely sum of £15 per week. Yes, it didn’t buy a lot then either! So one day I was a rich banker in London travelling on the tube and literally the next I was an impoverished gardener, tootling on a motor cycle along Devon lanes so quiet that grass grew in the middle of the road and a fox and pheasants crossed my path.

Dr. Smart grew a heap of Camellias, both inside and outside. They were his passion! They can be grown in the garden if you have neutral or acidic soil, they make cool cool conservatory plants but they can also be grown in pots outside. And given their specific soil requirements that is a good way to grow them – in containers. There is no point in my giving you lots of cultural information and indeed that is not the purpose of this blog – that would be far too useful! Google for further details.

But bear the following in mind. ‘Margaret’ has been potted on only about 4 times in 23 years. The compost has been ericaeous, or loamy with added organic matter, when true ericeous mixture was not available. She has been watered when other pots got watered, with tap water which here is heavily alkaline.

 My supposition is that it is the growing in the container and the semi shade which are crucial. Lime leaches out of pots, which of course represent a raised body of soil, rain is in any case acidic, and the semi shade means it will need less water anyway.

 They are ideal for growing in some quiet, redundant, semi-shaded corner and can then be brought out into prominence when they are in full bloom. They are therefore good in the shade of many town houses. The glossy, serrated, evergreen foliage is quality stuff.


Margaret has come to represent a particular time in my life, but I am not especially fond of her as a flower. Doubles are not really my thing and this kind of ‘sops in wine’ edge, which you get with quite a few pinks, always seems a bit unresolved to me. Though it would be quite appropriate for the  consumptive heroine of ‘La Dame aux Camelias’!

 I prefer a clear white, a rich pink or a deep red and preferably a single flower. And the choice really is yours with Camellias. There are just so many selections.

However, the dear Doctor wanted me to have this one and this one is what I have got. 

Mind you I am still not sure who got the best bargain! Six months of hard work for £15 per week?