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Christmas camellias bloom early

Raindrops on camellias may not be a song lyric, but the sight is a delight after so many smoky days. Be sure to pick up fallen blooms. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Thanksgiving rain refreshes shrubs, but can lead to petal blight

Camellia City is enjoying the rain.

It may be Thanksgiving weekend, but Christmas camellias are in full bloom throughout Sacramento.

Camellia sasanqua, a close cousin to the February-blooming japonica camellias, blooms when weather conditions are just right, which is usually December in Northern California. But warm October weather coaxed out thousands of early flowers on shrubs all over town. With big red or dark pink flowers with distinctive gold centers, those bushes will continue blooming a few more weeks, adding a festive touch to our local landscape.

The current storm system washed ash, dust and other debris off leaves, giving camellia shrubs a bright sheen. Heavy rain also can knock off blooms or cause petals to turn to mush. Pick up and dispose of those fallen flowers to help prevent petal blight, a fungal disease that turns camellia petals prematurely brown.
Christmas camellias brighten the landscape.

Christmas camellias also make excellent cut flowers. Put a stem of flowers in a tall vase or float blooms in a shallow bowl of water.

As for our Thanksgiving storm, Sacramento received .21 inches Thursday, bringing the total to .93 for the first wave of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Just as much is expected Friday and early Saturday, before a warm and clear weekend.

That will make for excellent planting weather with soft ground, ideal for transplanting shrubs. Camellias -- both sasanqua and japonica -- can be planted now.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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