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Botanist's Lens: Winter's Rose or Knock Out Rose - What's in a Name?

Is it a rose? This is Camellia 'Winter's Star' (Ackerman hybrid)

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." - Juliet. Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II

Well, even in the plant world, Juliet was completely right that the aroma of a rose is simply irreplaceable, and a rose by any other name would still smell just as sweet.

Over the years, plant breeders have outsmarted nature and recreated the 'rose look' but there isn't a Camellia that comes even close in comparison to the deep rose aroma. They can name it a rose, but then what's in a name?

Photos 2 and 3 (bright pink) are Knock Out Roses. Photo 1 is again Camellia 'Winter's Star'

Currently blooming at London Town, you will find two plants with the name ‘rose’ in it: Knock-Out Rose and Winter's Rose. Same pastel pink color pallet and soft sweet curvy petals. One look at only the flowers of Winter's Rose and Knock-Out Rose might fool you into thinking that they both are hybrid roses. But if you use a botanist's lens and look closely, you will see subtle differences in the flowers and buds and, if you try to pick the flowers, watch out, one will prick you!

Rose belonging to Rosaceae family have evolved defense mechanism systems: prickles! Camellias on the other hand belong to Theaceae family and have no such defense mechanism. The biggest morphological difference is also in the leaves. Roses have opposite leaves and Camellias have alternate leaves. The buds of roses are tapered and hairy, whereas Camellias have oval and smooth buds. Two different plants: one likes shade, and the other will only smile in the sun.

On the left is a Camellia bud. On the right is a Rose bud.

Camellia 'Winter's Rose' happens to be an excellent dwarf rose, well suited as a ground cover or on a patio. It is cross between C. olifera 'Plain Jane' x C. hiemalis 'Otome'. Bloom time is from mid October - early December, and it is cold hardy to -15°F. Flowers are soft pink and in formal double petal arrangement. Camellia 'Winter Rose' is a stunning Ackerman hybrid, a dwarf beauty of its own.

Camellias overall are sometimes called as the Winter's Rose of the South. The resemblance to rose petal arrangements, shapes and colors is uncanny between Camellias and Roses, but using a botanist's lens will show you the difference.

Knock Out Rose

There isn't a Camellia that smells anything like a rose, and there isn't a true rose without its deep aroma and sharp prickles that can withstand the freeze. Well, what's in a name after all? Hybridizing can create plant wonders, but natures own wonders have no replacement. That said, some of the Dr. Ackerman's Camellia hybrids are genius plant wonders that can withstand extreme cold temperatures and breeders like Dr. Ackerman have made the 'Winter's Rose of the South' enjoyable even as far up north as Zone 7!

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