COMPANION PLANTS FOR CAMELLIAS



Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Winter's Gold':


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Edgeworthia chrysantha or "rice paper plant" is a native of China occurring wild in the province of Sichuan. It is related to the Daphne in the family Thymelaeceae. There are several species of Edgeworthia, but the Chrysantha is by far more outstanding. The common name "rice Paper Plant', refers to the use of this plant's bark by Chinese artisans to make what is reported to be some of the finest paper in the world. In the winter months, a large specimen Edgeworthia in full flower is a real attention getter. A nice plant can be seen at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, just through the double doors into the courtyard area.


DESCRIPTION:

Edgeworthia chrysantha is not well known in the US but it has recently received a good deal of publicity and it is certainly one of the most interesting plants we grow. One outstanding characteristic is its tendency to branch in threes upon each new flush of growth. But its most interesting characteristic is its noticeable flower clusters which seem to hang on the bottom of numerous branch tips all winter. Edgeworthia is fairly fast growing. It tends to initiate new shoots from the plant base and forms a rounded clump or bush up to six feet tall. Leaves are oblong shaped, medium green and are approximately 3 1/2 inches wide by 11 inches long similar in size and shape to Magnolia grandiflora. The flowers form from late summer to late fall. Unlike Daphne odora, Edgeworthia is deciduous. The leaves turn a soft yellow and drop off, leaving the flower buds prominently displayed upon bare branches. In the winter, these flower clusters swell and resemble inverted sunflowers up to two inches across. The flower clusters of 40-50 blooms begin to open into deep butter-yellow tubular flowers from the outside toward the center. The bloom occurs in Georgia in late February through March and the fragrance has been described as similar to Paper White Narcissus. Like the daphne, this fragrance tends to drift and can be detected some distance away from the plant. Bloom period is about 6 weeks.


CULTURAL PRACTICE:

Like it's Daphne relative, Edgeworthia prefers moist but well drained soil. Under dry conditions, it will require supplemental watering. Edgeworthia will let you know when it is thirsty, as the large leaves will wilt down and hang limp. A good watering quickly restores its vigor.


HARDINESS:

Edgeworthia chrysantha appears to be more cold tolerant than other Edgeworthia species. It is rated as a zone 7-8 plant but possibly could do well on into lower zone 6. It also seems to be adaptable to a wide range of soils from sandy to clay and a tolerance for both acid and alkaline soils. It has performed well when planted outside in our un-amended red Georgia clay. In our area, light shade is recommended, but in China, Edgeworthia grows nicely in full sun.







Another companion plant we recommend is Osmanthus fragrans commonly referred to as tea olive.  The variety we grow, ‘Massee Lane’ was originally propagated from cuttings found at Massee Lane Gardens, headquarters of the American Camellia Society.  This variety will bloom 7 months of the year beginning in Fall and extending into Spring, weather permitting. On warm spring or fall days, the fragrance of tea olive can be detected floating in the air over 50+ feet from the plant.






We also grow another Osmanthus fragrans cultivar called aurantiacus or commonly called "Orange Blossom" tea olive. Unlike the more common Osmanthus fragrans, the aurantiacus only blooms in Fall and only on plants that are 4-5 feet tall. However, when it blooms it really puts on quite a show with bright orange blooms almost completely covering the branches. Same wonderful fragrance too!