Bouquets of color and scent mark annual camellia show

People look over the award winning camellia blooms during the 38th Annual Camellia Show put on by the Gainesville Camellia Society held at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville Sunday Jan. 5, 2014. Show goers enjoyed more than 1,000 camellia blooms on display over the two-day event.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 7:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 7:53 p.m.

Blankets of pink, red and white flowers filled entire rooms with their delicate blossoms at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens this past weekend, each bloom carefully chosen for display at the Gainesville Camellia Society's 38th annual Camellia Show.

More than 1,000 blossoms were entered into the show this year. Show chairman John Swanson said the show was larger than last year, with about 150 more blooms.

Large, red petals with yellow stamen floated in shallow bowls next to puffy white blossoms speckled with pink hues. Each donned a unique name, representing its particular variety.

This year's unique weather pattern brought some varieties out early this year, Swanson said.

“There was a little shift because we have had such a warm winter and fall, so some of the what would normally be later varieties are blooming now,” he said.

Florida entries came from cities as far as Tallahassee, Orlando and Lakeland, with Georgia blooms displayed from Moultrie and Quitman.

“It represented pretty much all of northern and northwestern Florida as well as southern Georgia,” Swanson said of the show's submissions.

Camellias were awarded honorary titles by certified camellia judges from the Gainesville area. The judges look at the specifications for each variety based on standards from the American Camellia Society.

Aesthetic differences are considered, as well as unique effects from hybridization.

Though the majority of camellia blooms do not emit a noticeable fragrance, Swanson said some varieties are known to produce a pleasing scent. These varieties boasted names such as High Fragrance, Scented Treasure and Scentuous.

Some recent trends in camellia cross-breeding are focusing on bringing unique colors into the spectrum of blooms, camellia master gardener Irma Velez said.

The show's best species winner was a small yellow bloom, which, though smaller than other flowers, was easy to spot in a sea of pink and white. Velez said some gardeners are working to cross the yellow species with larger varieties to make a large, stunning yellow blossom.

Others are focused on expanding the purple tint that is sometimes seen around the edges of red blooms, with the hope of producing a blue camellia.

Velez led a small group through the Kanapaha camellia garden on Sunday afternoon, showing the group the essentials of camellia caretaking.

The garden, which contains nearly 90 varieties on about two acres of land, was planted in the 80s when the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens first opened.

Velez, who also works at the Wilmot Gardens located at the University of Florida, has recently begun spearheading a renovation project for the camellia garden.

On Wednesdays at 1 p.m. she works in the garden, weeding, cutting understory branches off of nearby trees and planting colorful undergrowth to keep the garden vibrant year-round.

Because of their unique blossoming schedule, Velez said camellias are a superb winter plant.

“I wish people knew more about camellias and would plant them in their yards and make Gainesville even more beautiful,” she said.

The Gainesville Camellia Society has hosted the annual show at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens for the past three events, and Velez said the group intends to keep the show there next year.

The group also hosts a plant sale during the show each year, which showcases an array of varieties. The sale is a major fundraiser for the society, with funds contributing to the next year's show.

The show has grown in the recent past as more people hear about it, Velez said. It is hosted on the first weekend of each new year, unless that dates falls on Jan. 1.

All camellia gardeners are encouraged to bring their most beloved blossoms. There is no fee to submit a bloom, and a special award is reserved for novice gardeners.

“Bring them in, you have nothing to lose,” she said.

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