Camellias are out in force by now. There are C.japonica forms every way you look in the nursery and gardens here and the reds and whites are adding to the palette.
C.Apollo is a very popular semi-double in rich red; Marion Mitchell is a brighter red and more double. In white, C. Alba Simplex is a lovely pure single with golden stamens, and C. Gus Menard is an equally pure anemone-form.
Amongst Camellia williamsii varieties, pinks predominate, such as the all-time favourites C. Donation (semi-double) and C. Debbie (peony-form). C. Francis Hanger rivals C.Alba Simplex amongst single whites, and the golden variegation on the leaves of C. Golden Spangles gives year-round added value to this reliable single pink.
The early rhododendron species are really getting going now, with the lovely blood-reds of R. eclectum and R. barbatum and its crosses, such as R. barbatum x thomsonii.
For the larger site, R. calophytum and R. sutchuenense are opening spectacular large trusses of pink or white flowers with interesting throat markings of spots and/or blotches of rich red. The Big-leaf species buds are fattening and will soon join them.
For the smaller garden, the azalea-like flowers of R. lutescens (yellow) and its compact hybrid R. Bo-peep, and the rich purple of Rh.Peter John Mezitt with its contrasting dusky foliage make a real splash and an interesting combination, perhaps behind a silver-leaf such as Senecio ´Sunshine´. The paler mauves of R. Praecox and R. Emasculum are equally valuable and look good with early yellow daffodils.