The Romance of Camellias

Camellia japonica 'Alba Plena'

Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’

As Valentine’s Day approaches, long-stemmed red roses tend to get a lot of hype. But here at The Huntington, February is all about camellias, as thousands of flowering shrubs come into glorious full bloom. And for those who are romantically inclined, the quiet pathways through the camellia forest, shaded by sheltering oaks and pines, are the perfect place for a stroll. What’s not to love about that?

For more than a decade, the Camellia Collection at The Huntington has been recognized as a “Garden of Excellence” by the International Camellia Society. It was one of only six gardens in the world to be singled out for that honor on the original list published in 2001. (Descanso Gardens in nearby La Cañada was another.)  Today, 17 fine gardens around the world hold this distinction.  Gardens are judged on the size and quality of their camellia collections, their educational outreach, and on other factors such as research activities. The Huntington’s camellia collection, which includes nearly 80 different species and some 1,200 cultivated varieties, recently was reappraised by the ICS. It will come as no surprise to local camellia lovers that the garden has retained its quality status.

Camellia 'Happy Harlequin'

Camellia ‘Happy Harlequin’

The Huntington’s collection includes nearly 80 different camellia species—sasanqua, japonica, reticulata, hiemalis, vernalis, and tunghinensis, to name just a few—and some 1,200 different varieties. Many of them are at the peak of their bloom right now, putting on a dazzling display in the North Vista, the Japanese Garden, and the Garden of Flowing Fragrance.

Camellias are native to China and Japan and made their way to the Western world in the 18th century. The descendents of some of the earliest camellias to arrive in England are represented here in the Botanical Gardens, including Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’ and C. ‘Captain Rawes’. Many species camellias and modern hybrids also grace the landscape.

The display will be even more outstanding on Feb. 9–10 as The Huntington hosts the 41st annual Camellia Show and Sale presented by the Southern California Camellia Society. Hundreds of blooms will compete for top hours, and a wide selection of plants will be available for purchase. Hours for the event are from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 (following the morning judging), and from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington.

3 thoughts on “The Romance of Camellias

  1. San Marino is superlatively situated for the cultivation of this flower. Growing up there in the 40s and 50s, and enjoying rolling ourselves like barrels down your sloping lawn, my brother and I watched as our father would graft new hybrids of the flower in our garden, and their leniency toward this lèse-majesté would reward it with radiance. The Huntington is unforgettably allied with this flower.

  2. Pingback: THIS WEEK AT THE H | Feb. 4–11 | VERSO | The Huntington's Blog

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