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February's plant of the month is the camellia4 February 2013
February's plant of the month is the camellia, a real garden favourite at this time of year for its colourful, showy blooms in every colour from pure white 'Alba Plena' to the deep red of 'Crimson King'. The flowers look rather like flattened roses, single, cup-shaped and about 7cm across. They're often scented, too – cut a few to perfume the house when there's little else around.
Camellias are evergreen, making big, handsome shrubs up to 3m tall, so give them plenty of room in the garden and make sure they have a place where their winter beauty can be truly appreciated. There are also more compact varieties, like 'Paradise Petite', more suitable for growing in containers.
They're woodland plants, so enjoy a shady spot – though avoid east-facing areas as their blooms are very susceptible to frost damage when caught by early sunshine.
The other must-have for camellias is an acid soil: if yours is neutral to alkaline, go for a container-grown specimen and pot it up in ericaceous (lime-free) compost, available by the bag from your favourite garden centre. Water with lime-free rainwater and add an ericaceous liquid feed to the water from time to time and they'll perform gloriously for many years to come.