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Of Local Interest, article in Jackson County Times

Camellias in our Landscapes


This time of year I really enjoy seeing all the beautiful Camellias blooming in my garden and all around Marianna. Most common are two varieties of Camellia species and hybrids, Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica. Camellia sasanqua usually have smaller leaves and start blooming in early fall and go into the winter. Camellia japonica have larger leaves and larger flowers and bloom from mid fall to early spring. I enjoy my camellias especially in the dead of winter when nothing else is blooming I can take a walk and enjoy spectacular colorful flowers that are sure to cheer anyone up!

We have a great heritage of Camellias in Jackson County where there use to be a great bunch of Camellia enthusiasts that collected, grew and bred fabulous Camellias. If you are ever behind Burger King and the Banks there you will see in the woods there large Camellias everywhere, these were planted by a Mr. Peacock that once owned a motel on that property and was an avid Camellia collector. Thanks to Bob Pforte the present owner of that property they have been saved for all to enjoy. Our greatest gift of Camellias came from Paul Gilley of Grand Ridge a retired fisherman who began breeding Camellias after he retired. He soon learned the best pollen parents and collected these plants and started growing seedlings by the thousands and selecting the best to name and register with the American Camellia Society. During his lifetime he registered over 60 hybrids naming one after each of his eight children and over twenty grandchildren, a few ancestors, his wife, a couple of dogs and even some friends. I was honored to have known Paul Gilley and I continue to propagate and spread his great legacy of Camellias around the country. Many years ago I visited Nuccio’s Nursery in Altadena CA. which is run by the second and third generation of the worlds formost breeders of Camellias. I offered to trade him ‘Black Gold’ one of Paul’s most popular dark black-red Camellias but he turned down the offer and said he had never seen it but was sure his ‘Maroon and Gold’ was better. Well after about ten years ‘Black Gold’ made it to CA. and started winning in all the Camellia shows there even winning out over ‘Maroon and Gold’.

One other Camellia that should be of great importance to all of us Southerners is Camellia sinense the Tea Camellia. All of the tea we drink comes from this Camellia which is usually grown for us in Asia but we can easily grow our own right here with this Camellia that is ideally suited to our climate and soil. It has leaves smaller than C. japonica but a bit larger than C. sasanqua and blooms with white single flowers up to two inches across. It makes a nice evergreen hedge and can be grown in sun or shade.

Camellias are easy to grow and are one of the few shrubs you will find that like to be planted or transplanted when they are blooming, so now is a great time to plant one. They are shallow rooted plants and do not like to be planted deeper than they are growing in the container you get them in. They will tolerate and wide range of soil types but prefer acid soils, if you are not sure about your ph you may want to incorporate some peat moss in with your soil when you plant. Water your plant well after planting and watch the first year for droughts and give your plant water if one occurs, once your plant is established it will be drought tolerant and will never require any more water than the rains we get. You can feed your Camellias with Azalea Camellia fertilizer that is readily available at Town and Country Seed and Feed Store in Marianna. We have very few pests that bother our Camellias, sometimes we get a tea scale insect on them which can be sprayed with a number of insecticides or it can be ignored as it will not kill the plant. If you are into low maintenance landscaping the Camellia is for You.

Jodie L.. Shumaker