It seems the world has had a long love affair with the camellia flower. My journey began in the Spring of 2018. As a native New Englander, for as long as I can remember, my February flowers were usually nestled in deep slumber under a blanket of snow over a foot thick. I could hardly wait until the snowdrops appeared, or the daffodils of a warm March. I always associated Spring flowers with Easter.
But here in South Carolina, everything begins to pop in February!
Along the Hammock Coast, I could not help but marvel at the prolifically colorful blossoms with a medium thick, creamy petal texture much like a gardenia. They came in all shades of red, coral and pink at the golf courses and around neighboring homes. The petals are a deep green and they launch on the landscape as early as January after a very warm spell. But February is when nature gives us the greatest eye-full of color. Last year, we decided to plant our own. We planted two double pink and a double coral/raspberry. in person, the buds of the latter look lie they are on fire. I am afraid my camera does not do the incredible color of the petals justice. But suffice it to say... I am a fan.
I took a few minutes to research a bit more about the camellia flower.
"Camellias were cultivated in the gardens of China and Japan for centuries before they were seen in Europe. The German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer reported that the "Japan Rose", as he called it, grew wild in woodland and hedgerow, but that many superior varieties had been selected for gardens. He was told that the plant had 900 names in Japanese.
The first living camellias seen in England were a single red and a single white, grown and flowered in his garden at Thorndon Hall, Essex, by Robert James, Lord Petre, among the keenest gardeners of his generation, in 1739. His gardener James Gordon was the first to introduce camellias to commerce, from the nurseries he established after Lord Petre's premature death in 1743, at Mile End, Essex, near London.
With the expansion of the tea trade in the later 18th century, new varieties began to be seen in England, imported through the British East India Company. The Company's John Slater was responsible for the first of the new camellias, double ones, in white and a striped red, imported in 1792.
The camellia was imported from England to America in 1797 when Colonel John Stevens brought the flower as part of an effort to grow attractions within Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.
By 1819, twenty-five camellias had bloomed in England. By the 1840s, the camellia was at the height of its fashion as the luxury flower.
The Camellia in Popular Culture:
Augusta National Golf Club's 10th hole is named "Camellia", one of many references to the plant nursery originally on the site of the course.
In the book To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes after she insults his family, yet he later receives a camellia bud from the dying woman.
Alexandre Dumas wrote the novel and stage adaptation The Lady of the Camellias, wherein the flower is a symbol of a courtesan's sexual availability.
A white camellia flower is an iconic symbol of Chanel haute couture, a tradition started by Coco Chanel herself who identified with the heroine of Dumas' work.
White camellias became a symbol of the women's suffrage movement in New Zealand and the flower appears on the country's ten-dollar note.
The following cities are nicknamed the "Camellia City" of each state:
Thomson, Georgia is nicknamed the "Camellia City of the South."
The camellia is the state flower of Alabama.
Temple City, California's slogan since 1944 has been "Temple City, Home of Camellias", and the city has become well known for its Camellia Festival."
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