Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Camellia Show

Last Saturday my sister Bunny, Dad, and I went to the Tallahassee Camellia Society’s annual show. It was held in Eyster Auditorium at the Doyle Conner Agricultural Complex. The auditorium was full of tables covered with row after row of red, pink, and white blooms in all different shapes and sizes. The flowers sat in little clear bud vases, fresh from yards all over the Tallahassee area.

Taylor's Perfection. My pictures from the camellia show never turn out (because the auditorium's too dark), so I'm just including some shots from my yard and neighborhood. I'm sorry!

The best part of the show was the camellia sale held out front on the sidewalk leading up to the Conner Building. There were dozens of plants available, all kinds of interesting varieties from Loch Laurel Nursery up in Valdosta, which specializes in camellias. Before we even went in to see the show, Bunny and I engaged in a camellia-shopping frenzy. I bought five camellias in about two minutes: Mr. Sam, Dancing Blaze, Harriet Bisbee, John Rumbach, and Miss Charleston Variegated. Bunny only bought two because her yard is full.

“I can’t believe you only bought two!” I said.

“I wasn’t supposed to buy any!” Bunny said. “I’ve still got one from last year that I can’t find a place for!” (It's true. I've seen it, still sitting in its pot.)

Bunny has over a hundred camellias on a city lot. Many were planted long ago, not by Bunny but by a former owner, and have grown to tree size. Her backyard is a camellia forest, a maze, with a little turquoise table-and-chair set in the middle, hidden. Bunny used to throw amazing Halloween parties, and at her last one a life-size plastic skeleton was sitting at the table. He was having tea by candlelight and moonlight, the table set with a real silver teapot.

Stephens Garden

The blooms at the show, except for the ones at the winners table, were displayed alphabetically by cultivar name.

“Now, we have to go in order!” Bunny said.

So we made our way along the tables, starting with the A's, taking pictures and jotting down names of coveted plants: Brother Rose, Bryan, First Blush. . . . Dad was wearing overalls, and he had his bright yellow camera around his neck. His bountiful silver-white hair always reminds me of his favorite camellia, Silver Waves.

“I wanted to enter the show this year,” Bunny sighed, “but of course I didn’t get it together.”

“It’s my dream to enter,” I said. “But I think my plants might need to get a little bit bigger first. Each one only has, like, two flowers.”

“Let’s make a New Year’s resolution that we’re all going to enter next year!” Dad said with his characteristic Dad enthusiasm. “We’ll do it together.”

“I guess we’ll be in the Novice category since it will be our first show,” Bunny noted.

Dad nodded, smiling: “And we may just sweep it, if all of us enter.” Dad has 50 camellias in his yard, and I have 95. Mom's got to have a good 75.

I don't know this one's name, but it sure is pretty.

One of the camellia society members was going around the room with a gigantic bloom in a plastic bucket. The flower was about a foot across and bright, luscious pink.

“It’s Anne Hightower,” he said, offering us a peek in the bucket. “It’s been in my refrigerator for 11 days.”

“Well, why on earth didn’t you enter it?” a lady asked.

“Because it’s been in my refrigerator for 11 days!” he replied. “It’s in no condition.”

None of us knew what he was talking about; the enormous flower looked absolutely perfect.

We had such a great time at the show. We admired each bloom in a leisurely fashion and gabbed about nearly every one.

I was making all kinds of dorky comments: “I love all the fluff and ruffles on this one. . . . Oh, this one reminds me of a valentine. . . . And this one reminds me of a strawberry cupcake!”



  1. Leslie, I just love this post. Camellias have always been a favorite shrub of mine. So many different colors and flower forms! Having a beautiful, glossy green shrub year round doesn't hurt either. My goodness, I can't believe you and your family have so many...I'm totally jealous. Congrats on your new ones, happy planting._Janice

  2. They certainly are striking flowers. My farmer friends, Faye and Lynn have many camelia bushes on their property. I can't wait to hear about next year's entries by your families.
    Perhaps you could do a post on your sister and dad's collection?!
    I'd love for you to share this post on this week's Maple Hill Hop! We're open a little while longer! ;0D

  3. Beautiful!!!!!

    I bet your sister's camellia forest is wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing. I'd love to grow them, but don't know how they would do down here this far south.


  4. Thank you so much for your kind comments!

    Daisy, I will definitely do a post on Bunny's yard--that's a great idea. Also, I would love to be a part of the Maple Hill Hop, but I'm not sure how to do it. I will try to figure it out. Thank you!

  5. I'm totally impressed by the number of camellias you and your family have. That is awesome!! They are one of my favorite old-timey Southern plants. I only have 2 in my little hard but my mother has quite a few. Glad you enjoyed your annual trip to the camellia show, and, yes you and your family must enter next year.

  6. I love seeing your camellias - they're lush and beautiful! I've either been too far north or too far south to grow camellias - they've always been a dream though. Lovely post! :)

  7. They were so accommodating and I was truly impressed. It is such a comfortable environment. For a buffet, it was delicious food at venues in Atlanta. Alcoholic beverages were also great. Overall, this place is great, and my favorite venue in the city.