the Camellia Community
Since discovering camellias in their native habitats of Asia, man has moved the ornamental evergreen across the globe or traveled to collections to appreciate the blossoms. October through March from the Carolinas to California and from Columbia to Chicago camellia connoisseurs and colts display their “cream of the crop” to compete for honors at camellia blossom beauty pageants.
What would you do if 1200 camellia blossoms showed up at your door? That happened at the Mid- Carolina Camellia Society annual winter show last Saturday in Phillips Market at the SC State Farmers Market where exhibitors from South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia entered their finest winter hardy C. japonica, C. reticulata, and hybrid flowers. Richard Mims and John Baker co- chaired the show.
North Augusta residents Carolyn and Jim Dickson transported 100 camellias in Styrofoam coolers lined in ice packs. Each camellia was placed on fiberfill with the stems in rose picks. Jim who has been growing and showing camellias since age 12 takes charge of fertilizing and pruning their 300 camellia shrubs. He keeps shrubs short to increase bloom and his rule “to prune them to throw a cat through” promotes air circulation and sun reaching the center. Carolyn handles logistics for transport and exhibition. Their Yorkshire terrier, Ozzie, accompanies them to every show.
Exhibitors prep and primp each bloom for water- filled exhibition cups with one or two leaves supporting the blossom. Q-tips remove stray pollen on petals for perfection. Entry forms require exhibitors to specify name of variety, size of bloom, and class entered.
Camellias grown indoors in a greenhouse or conservatory are judged in the Protected Blooms category. Unprotected Blooms are grown outdoors without any man- made protection from weather.
During set-up from 7a. m. until 12: 30 p. m., camellia society members are on hand to assist exhibitors with procedures and to identify mystery specimens, an exciting revelation for those who have inherited camellias when purchasing a home but prior owners left no plant palette. Richard Mims looks at the face of a flower and instantly knows its name and origin.
During judging, the judges have the floor. Exhibitors and visitors sit in wait along the perimeter. Judges adhere to rules of the American Camellia Society headquartered in Ft. Valley, Georgia. With so many spectacular specimens, judging took three hours. Thereafter, the exhibit hall was open to public viewing.
To avoid the spread of disease, all blooms become the property of the local show organizer. Catherine Maker, member of the Mid- Carolina Camellia Society, takes some blossoms to Still Hopes memory care unit so residents may enjoy flower arranging. Camellias can trigger memories from the past and hope for the future like no other garden plant.
For those interested in yearlong camellia camaraderie, join the Mid- Carolina Camellia Society for monthly meetings as posted on the website in the sidebar. To explore the American Camellia Trail East Coast Gardens, visit the American Camellia Society website.