1,900 camellias, compiled on one CD

'Camellia Photos' also includes information on growing the shrubs

Sandra Williams has photographed thousands of camellias over the past 12 years, and has created a compact disc including 1,900 of the flowers. The CD also has planting, growing and care instructions for the so-called Queen of Winter. One of the camellias on the CD, left, displayed in typical show form, is one of the "blacks," which are really very dark red/purple.

LARA NEEL/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 3, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 3, 2004 at 12:31 a.m.

It's been a 12-year labor of love - which she admits was sometimes "exhausting" - but Sandra William's "Camellia Photos" CD is finally done.



  • What: Gainesville Camellia Show

  • Where: The Oaks Mall, Sears Court

  • When: Judging this morning, show opens to public at 2 p.m. and remains open during mall hours today and Sunday.

  • If you are interested in the vast array and variety of camellias, this is where to explore. While it would be nearly impossible to capture the image of every named camellia, this one certainly comes close: there are 1,900 photos here.

    Williams, who was president of the Gainesville Camellia Society twice, eight years ago and again in 2001, has been interested in camellias ever since she was a child living on her grandfather's property on U.S. 441 between Paynes Prairie and Lake Wauberg. But she didn't begin to seriously grow them until about 13 years ago.

    She and her husband, Laddie, got "turned on" to camellias after visiting some friends who bought a 10-acre farm near Savannah, Ga. "We got home, and Laddie said, 'We need to get one.' "

    Well, as all camellia growers can attest, they couldn't stop at one. The Williamses now have about 130 camellia bushes growing around their Northwest Gainesville home, comprising some 120 different varieties. She is now going to specialize in the bushes that produce miniature blooms. She plans to enter some two dozen blooms in this weekend's Gainesville Camellia Society show at the Oaks Mall.

    As soon as she started growing them, she started photographing them, first using a Pentax K1000. She took one photography course through Santa Fe Community College's Community Education, but that was the extent of her formal training in picture-taking. She continued taking photographs over the years.

    The switch from slides and prints to digital was a no-brainer. It was all about money.

    She and Laddie took a trip out West, and along the way, she took wildflower photos - one environmental, one of the plant, and one a closeup of each one. "We took a 9,000-mile trip, and I must have taken 9,000 photos. The developing/printing bill was about $1,000." Her Sony Mavica uses 3-inch floppies, which are now incredibly inexpensive and can hold hundreds of images.

    The work of scanning in photos, naming them, arranging them and proofreading was an arduous task, even for someone who has a degree in computer programming from SFCC. "These past six months, it's all we've done, is complete this," she said.

    The impetus for the project came from a bit of frustration over identification at the outset. She says she bought the more common camellias: Pink Perfection, Mathotiana and Professor C.S. Sargent. But she wanted more. Of course. She bought Blood of China and Victor Emanuel - which turned out to be the same variety but with two different names. Then she discovered Sarah Frost, Eugene Napoleon and Campbelli, all small red formal doubles that only the experts could tell apart.

    She wanted to help other enthusiasts select their camellias, and help them identify flowers. So she started taking photos every time she went to a show, or visited a garden, or went through a nursery.

    The photos were taken not only of local show flowers, but of those in Mobile, Ala.; Nashville, Tenn.; Charleston, S.C.; and Valdosta, Savannah and Atlanta, Ga. She took numerous trips to the American Camellia Society Headquarters in Fort Valley, Va.

    The Florida shows she visited were Gainesville, Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Tallahassee, Pensacola, Orlando, Ocala, Lakeland, Tampa, White Springs and Edgewater. She also visited Bob Wines Nursery in Ocala.

    While Sandra took most of the photos, she also - with permission and credit - included photos by Dr. Hubert Linthe of Germany, Yasinouri Kanda of Japan, David Parks of The Camellia Forest in North Carolina, and Ann Blair Brown, former executive director of the American Camellia Society. Jerry Hogsette supplied some of the photos of insect pests.

    The daunting task of getting all the names straight while photographing them took organization as well as a large measure of trust. She got the names from entry cards at shows, tags on plants and explanations by exhibitors.

    The system is set up so you can choose which way you view the flowers: by form, by color, by size. Or just sasanquas. Or any combination: variegated large Japonicas, pink peony, large rose anemone.

    There is some duplication - Pink Perfection will be found on the Pink, Solid Pink, Japonica, Small, Formal Double, Small Pink, Small Formal Double, Pink Formal Double, Pink Japonica, Small Japonica, Formal Double Japonica, and Small Pink Formal Double pages - but it is the exception rather than the rule.

    It is fun to see all the different images all in one place - and some of the more unusual ones you are not likely to encounter, like the "purple" or "black" camellias, and the yellows (she has two).

    Not only are there hundreds of images, but she describes in detail - with accompanying photos - planting, grafting, fertilizing and maintaining the shrubs. A calendar of tasks makes it easy to see what should be done, and when. (See accompanying story.)

    Her CD is available at this weekend's camellia show, as well as at Garden Gate Nursery on NW 43rd Street. It costs $50 plus tax. It is PC format.

    Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or gardener@gvillesun.com.

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