September 2013 Newsletter



Sunday, September 15, 1PM to 4PM in Gene Fleet’s newly-renovated garden, San Mateo

Come to see the delightful changes Gene has made in his lovely garden while catching up with your camellia friends. The event is an informal picnic, so please bring a plate of cookies, cut fruit or other finger food nibbles. SFPCS will provide drinks.

Please RSVP to


Don’t we all know and love Cam Ainsworth, whose presence enlivens our shows, our meetings and our social events!

Cam joined SFPCS (then PCS) in the 1970s and took board positions for decades thereafter, going emeritus quite recently. He chaired the show for many years and honed his skills as an auctioneer at innumerable membership meetings.

Last spring we dedicated our annual show to Cam in recognition of the willingness and grace with which he shares his knowledge of camellias with all of us relative neophytes. We held a brief ceremony attended by the judges and camellia growers from the entire area. On October 4, we will designate the camellias at the entrance to the Community Activities (CAB) Building where we hold our shows the Cam Ainsworth Camellia Garden. Cam and the late Howard Oliver planted camellias in many public areas in Redwood City, including the CAB. We will drink a toast to Cam and his wife, Jeanette, and admire the commemorative plaque. Please join us in tribute to this great man!

Friday, October 4, 2013, 4:30PM
Community Activities (CAB) Building
1400 Roosevelt Avenue, Redwood City


SFPCS members congratulate our friend and neighbor, Don Bergamini, on his election to the American Camellia Society presidency for the 2013 – 2015 term. Don lives in Martinez and is a member of the Northern California Camellia society centered in Walnut Creek. With his wife, Mary, he’s a frequent visitor to the West Bay, especially to shows here and in Santa Clara, where they won the sweepstakes awards once again this year. The quality and range of Don’s flowers can be seen on his Picasa Web site. Good luck, Don, for your term! We’re expecting great things of you.


When Marjorie Milani and her late husband, Paul, moved into their home 12 years ago, they planned their garden only to find that gophers destroyed their efforts. In response, they re-designed their back yard to feature a lovely deck, a few trees including a redwood, and containers for most of their shrubs, annuals and perennials to thwart the gophers. Camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas now thrive in containers under the Japanese maples and the redwood tree. Also in containers are cymbidium orchids, hydrangeas, coleus, fuchsias, coral bells, hollyhocks, geraniums, petunias, snapdragons, penstemons, gaura, million bells, and dozens of succulents.

The side yard has a three-in-one apple tree, a tangerine, a lime, and a Meyer lemon, all in containers. Wisteria lines the fence and rewards Marge with repeat blooms. She says she can’t resist buying another plant when she visits a nursery. It may be an addiction, but a sure sign of a dedicated gardener. Nuts to all the gophers!


Who would have thought there could be so much science to growing big pumpkins?  I’ve spent more time growing three large pumpkins as anything else in the garden this year, yet have I ended up with more questions about them as a result. When did they stop growing? Did I pollinate them correctly, and did the bees help or hinder my efforts?  Did I over- or under- water them?  Did adding drippers down the main vine where the pumpkins formed help their growth? What could I have done to make them get bigger?  Did they need more fertilizer as they grew?

The largest Atlantic Giant is a beautiful round orange, 17″ in diameter, and I don’t know if I could lift it.  The Cinderella is a beautiful flat round about 15″ in diameter. The last one is oblong and yellow, and might be a zucchini gone viral that the bees pollinated before I did. They are all sitting on piles of straw to forestall rot. So far the squirrels or other critters haven’t bothered them.

I think it was most exciting to see how fast the vines and pumpkins grew in the early weeks.  Even my neighbors were amazed when they came to see them.  It will be fun when the family gathers to carve them before Halloween, and we’ll see who has the biggest pumpkin.


The Camellia Connection interviewed Cam Ainsworth for the information in this article. Thank you Cam!

Transplanting: location, soil mix and water

September or early October are the best times to move camellias in the ground to a new landscape location or from pot to pot. An in-ground camellia area may have become over-crowded such that you decide to space your plants out, or perhaps with other landscape changes your camelia may get too much midday sun. A potted camellia may have been in its pot already for 2 to 3 years, and its middle-sized roots may be exposed at the surface. Allow yourself plenty of time over a period of a few days to move and renovate your plants if they need it. Preparation of the new area and the soil is key.

Location: camellias do best in morning sun, but they also tolerate all-day shade. Cam’s best plants are in the ground on the north side of his Redwood City house. That said, the more sun your camellia gets, the more likely it is to set multiple flower buds.

Pot or hole size for camellias: camellias like a fairly tight pot. As your potted camellia grows, move it up one pot size at a time. Thus a plant now in a 1-gallon pot may go to a 2- or 3- gallon pot; a 2-gallon plant may relocate to a 3- or 5-gallon pot. As Cam expresses it, don’t put a $2 camellia in a $10 pot. The same applies to the hole you dig for your in-ground plant. And the hole should be wide but not deep.

Soil mix: this will be made up of fairly equal parts of the following: your soil (even adobe), good potting mix, a camellia-rhododendron planting mix (Cam likes Lyngso’s), and steer manure. Now the instruction takes on a mystical note that goes back to Cam’s first chemistry class: pile up your 4 elements in a heap; break it into 2 or 3 smaller piles and mix each pile well within itself; shovel the satellite piles together again into one heap; add a “few handfuls” of all-purpose or camellia fertilizer to the mega-heap, about 2 handfuls per 15 – 20 total gallons of product.

Moving the plant ~ potted plant:

The day before re-planting is to take place, remove the potted plant from its container and immerse it in a tub of water. Once the root ball is wet, poke and agitate the root ball to loosen it. Do not be afraid of the soil washing off the roots. Clip the roots if they are wrapped tightly around, or crusted on the upper surface.

Using the soil mix described above, put a layer on the bottom of the new pot, then gently position the plant in it, spreading the roots with your fingers. Add more soil mix to fill the pot, keeping the main hardened root exposed to the air before it dives down into the pot. Tamp soil down and water well. Water daily for a couple of weeks. Maintaining good hydration is the secret of successful transplanting.

Moving the plant ~ in-ground plant:

The day before transplanting an in-ground plant, water the area well to loosen the soil. Once the soil is wet, work around the plant in a 2 – 3 foot radius around the stem and loosen the soil. Gradually move in closer to the plant’s stem, loosening as you go, but coming no closer than 1 foot to the plant’s stem. Try to locate the position of large roots. Water all well and leave until the next day. Next, fill the new hole you dug with water.

Next day, spread a layer of good soil with humus on the bottom of the new, dried hole. Agitate the plant firmly and raise it from the ground, retaining as much root as possible. Loosen the root ball, fanning out the roots to achieve optimum spread. Position the plant over its new hole with the soil-humus layer and begin to backfill the hole, holding the plant up so its crown will eventually be 1 to 2 inches above the surrounding soil level. Tamp down the soil and stake the plant to provide stability. Remove any straggly or damaged branches. Water well, repeating frequently over the next few weeks. Visit the camellia two days after re-planting it to check drainage and plant position. One week later, add mulch to the area, keeping it away from the stem. See below for fertilizing.

Fertilizing in the fall

For better blooms on continuing camellias (not recently transplanted), fertilize with 0-10-10 or 2-10-10 product. Or use an organic general purpose camellia food.

For transplanted plants in the ground, add a small amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer, (“a handful”), which will help promote vigorous growth in the coming spring. Do not fertilize newly transplanted potted plants with granular fertilizer. A dilute feeding of water-soluble fertilizer may be used.

Care for your continuing, non-transplanted camellias:

Rake up debris (dead leaves and old mulch) from under the plants and spread new mulch. Cam favors Lyngso’s camellia mulch mix that is heavy on fir bark.

Keep your plants open and tidy. “Any time is a good time” to keep plants neat, Cam says. Use sharp clippers to remove small shoots at the base of older plants. Keep those clippers sharp!

Disbud as you see fit: for better blooms, remove all but one, downward-facing bud per branch; for garden display, disbud to leave two buds per branch, one main bud and one smaller that will open later in the season. Buds on the inside of a plant tend to open later.