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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 Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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