One of the coolest parts of the original landscaping in my yard are the old camellias. There are camellia bushes tucked into every corner of the back yard, a dozen of them at least, from relatively young bushes to small trees. Camellias grow slowly so I’m quite sure that the smaller camellias are probably ten years old and the larger ones may be several decades old. The camellias are all covered in buds and a few have actually decided to bloom for us.

I’ve never really paid attention to camellias before. My usual taste in flowers is less refined and much less… pink.  I like exuberant flowers with bright colors, interesting shapes, or good flavor.

Camellias are extremely delicate. They only last a few days, the petals bruise and brown at the slightest touch, and the cut flowers wilt and darken in a day. But alive, they do have a refined and tender beauty all their own.

Like most of the original landscaping, these camellias have been sorely neglected. They were probably lovingly fertilized and sprayed with pesticides by Mrs. Boothby, so now they are beset with tea scale and aphids. Between the bugs, the current drought and my lack of fertilizing, many of the buds will never open this year. One of the smaller tree-sized camellias, I think one of the older camellias on the property, has already died. The larger camellias have grown too close together and need pruning and lots of compost and mulching.

I wish Mrs. Boothby had left a legend or map of the yard with the names of all of these trees, especially the camellias. I would love to know when they were planted, where she got them, what varieties they are. Maybe I should invite some of the ladies in the Gainesville Camellia Society to come and identify the varieties.

Hmmm. I could buy a big hat. And serve tea sandwiches. And they could tell me exactly how to care for these ancient beautiful camellias. The idea has… merit. There’s a Camellia Society Show at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in just a few weeks! What do you think?

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