Camellias color the Oaks Mall this weekend


Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 11:16 p.m.
The annual Gainesville Camellia Society show opens Saturday morning for a two-day run. Entries will be accepted that morning starting at 7:30 and judging will proceed later in the morning.
The show will then be open to the public for viewing during mall hours starting around 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday afternoon in the open area near Dillard's.
Gainesville Camellia Society member Jerry Hogsette said approximately 1,500 blooms in every shade from snow white to deep burgundy - singles, doubles, peony form; variegated and picoteed - will line tables set up in the central courtyard.
This is one of the largest shows in the Southeast, with exhibitors from seven states bringing flowers. Several greenhouse growers who will not compete will bring several new varieties, he said.
There will be many camellia plants for sale, as well, so if you find a bloom you are particularly taken by, chances are you may find the plant that produced it. If not, find out who the owner is, and perhaps they will be able to provide you with a cutting so you can grow your own.
Many winters have seen a sudden frost and even freeze right before a show, seriously affecting the show blooms. Has this been a good year? You bet.
Hogsette termed this season as "fantastic. With the warm weather and the rains, there are tons of flowers. While it may be a condensed season, we are right in the middle, and it's great.
"Camellia growing is like farming: The weather is always a factor. The lack of rain most of the year has affected the size of the flower crop. But it also has dramatically reduced the incidence of blighting type diseases and root rot. The best reply, I guess, is that there are usually some good in all things that we receive."
He added, "The flower show will be magnificent as usual. That's why the Gainesville Show is usually a highlight in most exhibitors' year because the quality of the show and the quality of the venue - thanks, in no small part, to the Oaks Mall. It is also hard to imagine a better place for out-of-town visitors to come."
Camellias grow particularly well in Gainesville, since they like deep, fertile soil, semi-shade conditions and a cool winter. There are two major kinds grown here: the fall-blooming Camellia sansanqua, which generally has more but fewer flowers, and the C. japonica, with large flowers.
Visit www.afn.org/~camellia/ for detailed information on how to grow and propagate these "Queens of Winter."
If you want to learn even more about growing and caring for camellias, you can join the Gainesville Camellia Society, which will have a booth open at the show. Meetings are 2 to 4 p.m. the third Sunday of each month at Summer House, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. Jay Ellis will lead the program at the Jan. 21 meeting, discussing the best camellias for Gainesville.
There are occasional field trips to camellia nurseries and meetings are sometimes at members' homes, where their private gardens are toured. Some gardens are quite extensive, with 1,000 different bushes not unusual.
Our ornamental camellias are native to China and are related to Camellia sinensis, which produces the popular green tea, Oolong tea and black tea - depending on how the leaves are processed. It's been grown in Asia for thousands of years.
The only place I've been able to find that sells C. sinensis is Camellia Forest Gardens, www.camforest.com/camellia.htm or 9701 Carrie Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, (919) 968-0504.
Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or blombem@gvillesun.com.

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