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Garden Talk


Horticultural Highlight: : ‘Tama-no-ura’ Japanese camellia

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week Jason Holmes, Curator Doris Duke Center Gardens, features one of the jewels of the genus Camellia.

Jason Holmes

Botanical name: Camellia japonica ‘Tama-no-ura’
Common name: ‘Tama-no-ura’ Japanese camellia
Family name: Theaceae (Tea Family)
Native range: China through Japan
Location in Duke Gardens: Culberson Asiatic Arboretum
Site requirements: Dappled deciduous shade. Grows best in well drained woodland soils.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-8


Many people are excited this time of year to see camellias in bloom.  Sometimes referred to as “winter roses,” and with thousands of named cultivars, camellias are known for their amazing flowers and forms. The cultivar ‘Tama-no-ura’ is as special as they come. This plant was discovered in the wild by Tomokazu Fujita in 1947 in Tama-no-ura, Fuku'e Island, Gotô Archipelago, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. From there it was selected by Konomi, Masahiro, Kurume City, Fuku'oka Prefecture, then named and released by the Prefectural Camellia Society. It was first put on exhibit in Nagasaki in 1973 and then introduced here in America by Nuccio's Nursery in 1975.

The first time I saw this form, I stumbled to pull my camera out as if the flower would disappear before I could get the photo.  In my mind, they look like jewels or decorations adorning a cake.  The flowers are about 2 inches wide, and they typically bloom locally from February to March. Each bloom is single, campanulate in form, and has six petals that are red with white edges. The overall plant habit is upright and open, and the flowers often hang down.

The American Camellia Society describes the flowers as follows:

"... red edged clear white, the edging tending to disappear on late blooms and on young plants; cylindrical stamen cluster, white filaments; leaves dark green, long-lanceolate, apex tapering acuminate, gently wavy, margins serrate, venation somewhat raised."

Over the years, ‘Tama-no-ura’ has contributed greatly to the development of the other popular picoted or white bordered blossom forms.  A series of like cultivars has been developed, referred to as the Tama Series, includes 'Tama Americana', Tama Bell', and 'Tama Vino'.

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Photos by Jason Holmes and Orla Swift (middle right).