The Culture of Camellias

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Island 3: British Imports and Variations

Enter the Nurserymen, 1 
"No. 2047: Camellia Axillaris," 
from John Sims, Curtis's Botanical Magazine; or Flower-Garden Displayed: in which the most ornamental Foreign Plants, cultivated in the open ground, the Green-house, and the Stove, are accurately represented in their natural colours, volume 46 [n.s. 4] 
London: Sherwood, Neely and Jones, 1819.

This import, brought back from China by a Mr. Roberts, was a sign of the future of camellia-growing: Roberts had given it, not to a friend or relative, but to a commercial nursery, in Fulham, then on the London outskirts.

Enter the Nurserymen, 2: Cultivating Variety 
"Camellia Chandlerii," 
from Edward Bourne Buckingham; Alfred Chandler, 1804-1896, illus., 
Camellia Britannica
London: Sherwood, Gilbert, & Piper, 1825. Library label of Henry Wood, Lewisham.

This beautifully-produced book was essentially a sales catalogue for Alfred Chandler's Vauxhall nursery. The seven new varieties illustrated were all seedlings of the anemoneflora orwaratah, which had been planted in 1819 and flowered for the first time in 1824-25. Shown here is Chandler's greatest prize, that he named after himself, though he soon followed with other varieties such as Chandlerii elegans.

Enter the Nurserymen, 3: Loddiges and theBotanical Cabinet 
[Edward William Cooke or Jane Loddiges?], 
"Camellia japonica incarnata," from Conrad Loddiges & sons, 
The botanical cabinet, consisting of coloured delineations of plants, from all countries, with a short account of each, directions for management, &c, &c., vol. 2 (1817). 
London: J. & A. Arch [etc.].

The letter reproduced here explains one of the most intriguing recent additions to Thomas Cooper Library's garden book collection, a set of early-19th century original drawings and hand-colored proof engravings. They had been passed down to the writer, Bernard Cooke, from his grandfather, Edward Cooke, son-in-law of the team of a London nurseryman and botanical publisher Conrad Loddiges. Happily the four volumes recently offered to the library by a dealer included the sequence A-COR, with the camellia illustrations, by Edward William Cooke and Jane Loddidges.

Shown here is an original water-color for an early volume of Loddiges's Botanical Cabinet (1817-1833), alongside the equivalent engraving (reversed) from the magazine. In his text, Loddiges suggests that camellias were still a new phenomenon, entering "the greenhouses of Europe" in profusion only "within the last fifteen years." Incarnata had been imported from China as recently as 1806, for Sir Abraham and Lady Amelia Hume, of Wortlebury, Hertfordshire, and named Lady Hume's Blush from a faint pink tinge between its petals.

Loddiges's series ran for sixteen years, eventually totalling over 2000 handcolored plates of different plant varieties, most from their own nurseries at Hackney, near London. The close overlap between horticultural knowledge and commercial self-promotion is shown by the 51-page Catalogue of plants which are sold by Conrad Loddiges & sons, nursery and seedsmen, bound into the end of this volume, offering eleven varieties of camellia japonica.

Enter the Nurserymen, 4: Two Guides for Home Gardeners 
Charles Mcintosh, 1794-1864, 
The Greenhouse, Hothouse, and Stove. New ed. London: William S. Orr, 1840 [engraved title: 1838]. 
Shown with: Robert Tyas, 1811-1879, Popular flowers. The camellia: its propagation, cultivation, and general treatment, in all seasons: to which is added, a select list of favourite varieties. 4th edition. 
London: R. Tyas, 1843. Disbound: modern wrappers.

The small-format book and even more modest pamphlet shown here indicate the spread of the 19th century English camellia craze from wealthy patrons to hardworked suburban gardeners and humbler fans. Both offer practical advice on propagating and protecting camellias. Donckelarii, introduced from the East in the early 1830s, was named in honor of the chief gardener at the Louvain Botanical Garden. Tyas copes without a greenhouse, advising readers to bring their plants indoors (where the temperature he notes will be 55 to 60 degrees).

Enter the Nurserymen, 5: Growing Camellias Outdoors 
"Camellia japonica Fordii, or Mr. Ford's Camellia," 
from Paxton's Magazine of Botany, vol. 2 (1841).

This beautiful foldout plate shows one of the varieties raised from seed in the warmer West of England. It was named for the man who first raised it, William Ford, by his relatives, Lucombe and Pince, of Exeter, who were nurserymen in Exeter. The editor of this magazine, Joseph Paxton, was head gardener to the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House. It was Paxton's huge greenhouse at Chatsworth that inspired his innovative design of a "Crystal Palace" to house Prince Albert's Great Exhibition in 1851. On Mr. Ford's Camellia, Paxton commented that "It is highly pleasing thus to find our native varieties rivalling any of those imported from China."

A Victorian guide to early camellia imports from the East 
From Jane Loudon, 1807-1858, 
The ladies' flower-garden of ornamental greenhouse plants. 2nd edition. 
London: W. S. Orr, [1849].

In this plate, Mrs. Loudon shows three varieties of camellia with the related Thea viridis (green tea). The oleifera or oil-bearing camellia may have been first brought to Europe from China on the return of Lord Macartney's embassy in the 1790s, but was reintroduced in 1820 by Captain Nesbitt of the East India Company for the Horticultural Society. C. Maliflora, likereticulata four years later, had been imported in 1816 by Captain Rawes for Mr. Palmer of Bromley, though it was soon distributed by a commercial nurseryman Mr. Lee. Thea viridishad been established in Europe by Linnaeus himself in 1763, in his Botanic garden at Uppsala in Sweden, and was brought thence to Britain in 1768.



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