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Balling in Camellias and Roses: An Explanation

The term ‘balling’ refers to when a flower bud does not fully develop and the petals never fully open. Balling is most prevalent in cool, wet conditions, as petals saturated with moisture stick to each other. Some fully-double camellias and garden roses are especially susceptible.

camellia balling
This camellia actually managed to open. In cases of severe bud balling, the flowers may never move past the bud stages, still tightly wrapped.

Qualities in roses and camellias susceptible to balling
Roses and camellias prone to balling are almost always fully double with upwards of fifty or more petals in each bloom.  Camellias that are prone to balling normally fall in the species japonica; Camellia sasanqua blooms, often being single, are almost immune to balling.

Should you not plant an old rose or Camellia japonica due to a fear of balling?  I would not specify a cultivar prone to balling in a landscape design that is public (corporate or institutional), visible, and not highly maintained, but other than this specific case, I cannot think of a single cultivar of any species that I would drop from the garden due to balling (I am sure there are some…I just haven’t run across them).

In our personal spaces, we should live with the setbacks, as these make the success much fuller.
Balling is a function of flower composition and environmental factors (wet, cool, damp days) coinciding.  The vagaries of nature and the weather are often seemingly aimed at confounding our best efforts.  Part of the charm of gardening is living (or learning to live) with the seasons.  Blooms that stubbornly refuse to open, or perhaps drop their petals too soon (peonies) are part of the bargain, the covenant we make when we pick up the gardening spade.

We plant flowers and they fail to open sometimes, and inscrutably we are better for it.

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