Camellias and History:
The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' 'Ancient Camellia Collection'
Throughout the southern region of
the US one can find Camellia specimens over a century old. They have
survived war, countless droughts, hurricanes, heat waves, and cold snaps. The
cultural significance of the Camellia in the Deep South is rich with history,
as they embody the "look of the South", past and present.
Connecting gardeners to history
through "heirloom" plants is not a new idea. However, in the world of
woody ornamentals it is anything but commonplace. In recent years, plant
breeding for the commercial landscape industry has boomed, and many "new
and improved" varieties are being introduced leaving these Old World
specimens out of production. We are very proud to be able to offer a mix of
both old and new Camellia varieties, as we recognize that every cultivar has a
place in someone's garden.
In July 2012 we had the pleasure of
visiting 'America's Romantic Garden', Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.
Our mission was to collect old-world Camellia cultivars that are no longer in
the trade. Magnolia Plantation has over 20,000 Camellias planted on the spreading
grounds, blooming from November to April. The Camellia collection was the most
extensive in America before the Civil War, and there are currently over 1,000
different cultivars of Camellia japonica - more than any other garden in
Ancient Camellias (pre-1900) are a
specialty at Magnolia. Over 150 cultivars of Camellia japonica have been
introduced by Magnolia between the 18040's and 1940's. Additionally, they have
organized and implemented an international search for ancient Camellias that are
threatened by extinction. "Our commitment to establish the Ancient
Camellia Collection is a constant world-wide search.” Miles Beach, Director of
the Camellia collection explains. "In travels overseas during the past two
years we have gathered 250 varieties that are new to the US."
Recently Magnolia Plantation was
awarded the 'International Camellia Garden of Excellence' award from the
International Camellia Society. The award applauds Magnolia's commitment to
displaying and providing information on Camellias. Tom Johnson, Magnolia's
executive director, said this international recognition confirms "we are
on the correct path as we restore the gardens at Magnolia with the pre-1900
varieties of Camellias that were planted by the Rev. John Grimke Drayton."
We are thankful and honored to have
the opportunity to gather cuttings from this spectacular collection and share a
piece of southern history with our customers. "Magnolia Plantation has
such a rich history in the Camellia world, and it is great to have Camellia
Forest Nursery offering these Old World cultivars." said Tom Johnson.