Only camellia lovers can understand how a Gang of Eight could capture our hearts so completely that we created a special place for them in our garden twenty-five years ago. Then, capitalizing on our soft spots, they managed to wheedle us into adding another 80 or so as companions.
Those great big neon blossoms! How they seduced us! This year in particular they’re busting out all over.
It’s a banner blooming season.
So what could be more appropriate for us than to run around the garden taking pictures and updating our series on camellias.
And pinching ourselves that we live in the south, where camellias are king.
We shall always be grateful to the Virginia Camellia Society for introducing us to such flamboyant royalty in the garden.
They offered hands-on workshops and seminars. They freely answered our questions. They taught us to air layer plants. They were dedicated to their camellias.
All this at the Norfolk Botanical Garden where a premier collection of over 1700 camellias attracts visitors from all points.
I’m proud to say we led some outdoor workshops, too, specifically on vole control (since we had intimate experience with the characters).
For several years we air layered their heirloom plants in spring and potted them up in fall for sale by the Botanical Garden.
Gradually we learned.
As we did the hard work of preparing soil, planting and pruning, and responding to an assortment of environmental assaults, from barely visible scales to mighty hurricanes, we developed our own perspectives on growing camellias. We tell our stories in chapters that are linked below and in the sidebar.
You can follow us from our first heady infatuation with the Gang of Eight (Camellias in our Garden) to our serious attempts at growing them: purchasing, siting, planting, pruning, fertilizing, and managing diseases and pests.
We tell how our camellia garden was destroyed and regenerated.
And how could we not discuss air layering, the easiest method we know of propagating our favorites? Our piece on wildlife talks about Most Wanted (birds and bees) and Least Wanted (deer and voles and squirrels – squirrels?).
Choosing Camellias, Landscaping with Camellias, and Companions for Camellias are three new additions to our series. We hope that some of the pointers and suggestions strike a chord and give you some new, aha! ideas.
As we tied up the series, we realized that camellias aren’t very different in their needs than most other plants. Much of what we discuss can be transferred to the care of other plants.
Regarding photos, we identify as many camellias as we can, those that were named when we purchased them and some we propagated. Once we began air layering unknowns we found out how difficult it was to put an accurate name to these beauties. Even experts were stumped. Eventually, we found that names didn’t matter. Their exquisite blooms in our garden were their identity.
Our camellias have taught us patience – it takes a long time to raise a camellia.
They’ve opened our eyes to the kinship of soil to plants, the links between healthy life teeming underground and plant happiness.
We’ve watched the sun cross the skies each day and seen its glow on our camellias.
We’ve had a good time experimenting and growing.
We know now that when you plant a camellia, you are planting for a future that is beyond your lifetime.
We hope you enjoy our series on camellias as much as we enjoy growing camellias. You can view the cast of our characters in the gallery below, including the original Gang of Eight. You’ll also find their portraits incorporated into the series.