Camellia sasanqua ‘Hiryu’
Sasanqua Camellia, Sazanka
This is a cultivar of Chinese and Japanese native Camellia sasanqua, which can be found growing wild on sites up to 900m above sea level. In Japan this species is called Sazanka, and Japanese horticulturalists have been breeding cultivars since at least the early Edo period (17th Century). As well as ornamental value, it is also cultivated there as a tea leaf and to produce tea seed oil from the seeds – an important product used for everything from cosmetics to lighting.
In the 19th Century Captain Richard Rawes from the British East India Company took a C. sasanqua variety from China back to relatives in Kent. Subsequently Dutch colonialists brought specimens to mainland Europe, and eventually the species and its many cultivars became very popular in western horticulture.
Popular with gardeners and pollinators
‘Hiryu’ has an open flower centre, with a central crown of yellow stamens that makes an excellent source of Autumn sustenance for tough pollinators braving the onset of colder weather.
Camellia sasanqua and its cultivars are distinguished from Camellia japonica by their smaller leaves and tighter growth habit, making them a more popular choice for hedging effects. They also generally begin flowering earlier: ‘Hiryu’ is reported to begin as early as the end of September in some gardens, often producing several flushes into December or even January. Whilst C. japonica is never scented, like many sasanquas, ‘Hiryu’ has a subtle, delightful fragrance.
Heart shaped deep cerise petals contrast the central golden stamens of this popular showstopper. The glossy evergreen foliage of this compact shrub gives year-round appeal, bearing its blooms from late Autumn through the Winter to bring joy to the darker months.
Suitable for a wide range of garden styles, it grows best in sheltered part shade and moist well-drained soil – or in a large container with ericaceous compost.
Care & Size Guidance
Camellias are all acid loving plants, so if you want to improve the planting area it is worth considering getting some ericaceous compost or slow release ericaceous fertiliser. This is a good choice for a container, as it is slow growing – though select a large pot or be prepared to plant out eventually as the plant can reach a final height of 2-3m.