Remember–it’s heart month! Let me know in a comment if you find the word “heart” in my blog!
Ever since moving to South Georgia in 1968, I have been in love with camellias, the delicate pink Perfections and all the rest. I’ve never learned the many, many names of camellias in our beautiful Red Hills region. I was a clumsy Garden Club member who couldn’t follow directions for arranging flowers, so very soon expelled myself from the club. My interest was in describing the beauties. My favorite arrangements involved floating blossoms in a bowl or simply plopping three to five long stemmed ones in a pitcher. Of course I greatly admired those who could take flowers and accompanying greenery and make those gorgeous centerpieces.
I used to chat often with Madge Clark when we’d meet on a morning walk. She was several years my senior and had much shorter legs but she always out-walked me. She loved my walking companion, my jubilant Irish setter named Sam. And she really loved to talk about my camellias. She knew my yard because she’d been friends with the former owner, Cleo Strickland. One day she stopped by my yard just to visit the sixty or so camellias Cleo had grafted and toyed with. I well remember how humiliated I felt that day. Because that was the day Madge realized how little I knew about the camellias. She was shocked that I didn’t know their names. It was as if I had so many children and didn’t even know how to call them.
I tried after that to learn their names, the saucer size dark pinks with veins of blue, the ruffled magenta blossoms, the bright red ones with yellow stamen, the gorgeous white blooms that, when turned upside down, looked like little brides, and the delicate pale pinks who seemed so happy they could have danced right off the branches. And there were the red and pink ones I called candy stripers, and the shrub Cleo had grafted so it had three different kinds of blooms.
To this day, though, the only camellia whose name I’m sure of is Pink Perfection, the one whose blooms look like tight carnations.
But there are some things I know about camellias. The foliage can become yucky if the trees are not fertilized regularly and sprayed from time to time for insects and fungus. Wymond Folsom knows what the shrubs need to keep them healthy so he sprays them once a year, and Charles keeps them fertilized. Still, we don’t have the prettiest foliage always. Someone said it is almost impossible for amateur growers to avoid having some white stuff on camellia leaves but we like the leaves to be glossy and green as much as possible.
Camellias like cool weather. For us, they begin blooming in December and bloom into March. If a freeze comes, blossoms will be nipped and turn brown but new blooms will quickly take their place. In fact, already the very generous camellia by our driveway is not only loaded with blossoms but underneath is a carpet made of those which have already fallen. Recently, when Charli and Kaison were here, I found them busily collecting those discarded blossoms in a basket.
On February 14, most years, the bushes are flourishing with lovely blossoms easy to share.
That’s another thing. Camellias were created to be shared. My friend Jan and her daughter Alea for some years would come by to pick camellias to share at an assisted living place where her mother lived. Sometimes she would even bring her mother who sat and watched the goats while the others picked flowers. Who doesn’t feel their spirits lifted when they see the fresh wonderful blooms of various colors? When I take a tray of blooms to my Magnolia Place friends they make a party out of carefully choosing the very blossom they want.
We don’t have as many camellias as we used to, since we moved. But still, on Valentine’s week I hope to have a wonderful display to choose from. And this is where my heart is–in sharing them, in person or by photo, sharing flowers of pink and white and deep red with perhaps a few drops of dew clinging to some satiny petals.
Yes, Camellias are winter shrubs. They are already in bloom when the cherry begins her show and the Japanese Magnolia puts forth buds. All together they silently proclaim the beginning of spring, the season of resurrection. Even when the groundhog has just predicted six more weeks of winter.