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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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