The Southeastern area of Alabama along with surrounding areas in Georgia and the Florida Panhandle are renowned for their show stopping camellias. And, just to mention, camellias are definitely in my top five favorite garden flowers. I only wished they bloomed twelve months out of the year, but I’ll settle for late fall to early spring in our area of the country. There are literally thousands of varieties of camellias today. One of the most popular, Camellia japonica is native to regions of Japan and China. Camellias were revered there for hundreds of years before being exposed to the West. By 1792, the first recorded specimens of C. japonica were transported to England in 1792 by East India merchants. By 1800 camellias had made it to the eastern U.S. with a Boston camellia grower recording 150 varieties in the 1830’s. By 1840, Philadelphia was the country’s leading camellia center. Camellias were originally thought to be fragile, and were coddled by growers in greenhouses. However, after being proven to thrive outdoors, they quickly made their way down South. Camellias have become a staple of the southern garden, flourishing in the filtered shade and acid soil under loblolly pines.
Dothan indeed has an ever-growing legacy in the development of the camellia. Local gardeners have introduced and propagated many varieties over the years such as Ma-dot-cha, Queen’s Escort, Helen Covington, Ashley Hall, Catherine Hall, Eleanor Grant, Annie Tee, Mavis Gwaltney, Steve Blount, and many more. Although the recent onslaught of ice and subnormal temperatures a couple of weeks ago have affected the blooms and foliage, I still was able to find some magnificent specimens today as I was driving through Dothan’s garden district. Many of the stately shrubs are at least 75 years old and tower over ten feet. One gardener I spoke with mentioned that the cold weather had affected the size of his blooms. However, I had no difficulty finding many photo worthy blooms. Camellia Society’s annual show here tomorrow should have many specimens from the tri-state areas to satisfy the interest of any gardener..
The Southeast Alabama Camellia Society’s
5th Annual Camellia Show
1:00 – 4:00 P.M.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
First United Methodist Church – Dothan, AL
Don’t miss the opportunity to see a diversified sampling of the region’s finest camellias, and speak with expert growers about growing tips and their passion and efforts to preserve the heritage of the camellia. I will be back soon with photographs of the show.
For additional information, check out the American Camellia Society – http://www.camellias-acs.com/