CAMELLIAS: The Gardener’s Encyclopedia

by Jennifer Trehane

Publisher:  Timber Press (2007)
ISBN 13 978-0-88192-848-8

Hardback  £35

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With today’s popularity of gardening and horticulture, a plethora of books on the subject, most of which are not worthy of reading, let alone purchasing, seem to be produced on a daily basis.  My pessimistic view occasionally is relieved by the publication of a work worthy of praise.  This is such a tome.

Jennifer Trehane, an adoptive daughter of Cornwall because of her father’s beautiful garden at ‘Trehane’, Tresillian, has put together a book that can only be described as definitive.  She has an intimate knowledge of the subject, gaining her enthusiasm from her father, David Trehane, who ran the family business in Dorset from 1982 to 1995.  She is a director of the International Camellia Society and is considered a leading authority on the genus camellia.

Her book successfully bridges the gap between the amateur and professional gardener and lays out the history and development of the plant since its introduction to our ‘western’ gardens.  The layout of the book clearly introduces the reader not only to the three species which are grown in our Cornish gardens: Camellia japonica, C. sasanqua and C. reticulata, but also to all the resulting hybrids.  Jennifer describes all the modern hybrids and developments which have taken place in more recent years.  Her chapter on propagation was, for me, the most exciting, with ‘Bud seedling grafting’ the most impressive of all the vegetative propagation techniques.  How did anyone come up with such an unusual method: quite amazing!  Pest and disease are covered in a comprehensive manner: so much can go wrong with camellias that it is very commendable that we do in fact grow them exceedingly well in Cornwall.

The photographs throughout the book are quite delightful, highlighting the range of colour, size and form.  Written botanical descriptions are perfectly adequate, but it is the photograph that brings that description to life.  The cultural requirements and techniques are extensively described, and the reader is left with all the information one would want to know about growing camellias.

I would like to conclude by saying that this is a book of outstanding quality, well researched and put together in a way which does not deter or detract the reader from enjoying the growing of such a beautiful genus.

Barry Champion   A.H.R.H.S.