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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 Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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