Japonica camellias

These make great background plants for borders
Lauren Bonar Swezey

The early varieties start blooming in October or November, the midseason ones in January or February, and the late-season ones in March (in colder climates, plants start blooming in winter and continue into May). Flowers are 2 to 6 inches across.

Specimen plants. Lush foliage makes C. japonica a striking background plant for borders. Most grow 6 to 12 feet tall. Of the dozens to choose from, the following are fanciers' favorites. Early to midseason: 'Debutante' (light pink peony), 'Nuccio's Gem' (white formal double), 'Silver Waves' (wavy white semidouble). Midseason: 'Kramer's Supreme' (red peony). Mid- to late season: 'Pearl Maxwell' (pink formal double). Late: 'Elena Nobile' (red rose-form double).

Multitrunk trees. Old upright specimens of C. japonica are particularly suited to pruning, which you may want to do if the shrub is leggy or blocking a window. To create a multitrunk tree, identify three to five main trunks (stems) that have the best position and form, then prune off the rest of the lower trunks and branches.