Camellia enthusiasts were indeed treated to a color extravaganza of red, pink, and white as they entered the competition hall of the Southeast Alabama Camellia Society’s annual show last weekend in Dothan, AL. This event was also sanctioned by the American Camellia Society. Displayed in all of their glory were the delicate blooms of many varieties of this southern favorite. And what a breath of spring in the middle of the coldest day of the winter! Most everything seems to be hibernating this time of year except for camellias. Competitors from Central Florida, Georgia, and Southeast Alabama enter their prized camellia blooms in this annual event.
Debbie Hundley, a close friend and master gardener in her own right, admires the blooms, and takes notes for future camellia bush additions to her lovely garden.
Dr. Bill Moon and his wife, Carolyn were instrumental in starting the local society approximately 6 years ago. Dr. Moon has grown camellias for over 40 years, and he states that there are literally hundreds of different varieties from hybrids to the antique ones which are abundant in Dothan’s garden district. He cites Dothan as having “perfect” growing conditions to support camellias. Experienced in the art of camellia grafting, he is definitely not a novice at gardening. His favorite variety is Frank Houser while his wife’s is Pearl Terry. He is pictured below examining the specimens.
The South has Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan to thank for this Southern garden favorite. In 1959 the camellia was designated Alabama’s state flower replacing Goldenrod after some ladies in Butler County considered it unworthy! I would have to agree. Feast your eyes on some of the prize-winning camellias that were entered in the show from a three state area.
Camellias are considered a “living symbol of elegance and aristocracy”, and gardeners are rediscovering this blissful flowering shrub is relatively easy to grow. Often referred to as the rose of winter in southern gardens, these exquisite beauties bloom from late fall to March, peaking in January or February.
Here are just a few tips to consider when growing camellias:
1. Some thrive in full sun, but most shrubs grow better and product more abundant flowers in partial shade.
2. Cold hardiness: Temperatures below 20F may reduce the bloom size.
3. The best time to plant new ones is early fall or winter when temperatures are above freezing.
4. Do not fertilize the first year after planting.
5. For established plants, apply fertilizer after blooming.
6. Only light pruning is required to remove dead wood and to thin limbs.
And what about my favorite camellia at the show? Hands down, my personal favorite was Pink Perfection. I have enjoyed picking this particular one from the yards of two friends who live in the garden district. Its delicate blooms remind me of a peony.
A very close second and winner of the best white variety was Seafoam.. Lovely…
The Southeast Alabama Camellia Society is to be commended for a fabulous show. And, like me, you may be dreaming of where to plant your next camellia bushes…