We specialize in Camellia sasanqua and japonica, but also offer a wide choice of hard-to-find and scarce plants that will make your garden center or landscape project stand out with distinction.
Click on the links to the left for detailed descriptions of plants offered.
“Not in the darkest and most dreary of winter days is the garden devoid of beauty” (E.H.Wilson)
For those who prefer their camellias within the context of history we provide:
Camellia japonica - Four corners of the Camellia kingdom
Camellia japonica are categorized into four distinct groups, which we believe will help both the serious collector and the casual gardener to identify, and perhaps even plan a landscape based on the plant’s origins and history.
(Pre-World War I)
The camellia arrived in Europe from the Orient during the 17th century, where it had been grown for centuries. It reached its zenith in the western world during the 1800s, when the entire continent fell in love with it. The plant with its lush blossoms and satiny deep green leaves was celebrated in art and literature during Queen Victoria’s reign, and was grown in quantities by the great nurseries of England, France, Belgium and Italy.
The camellia came to America early in the 1800s –probably as a mistaken substitute for tea seed. Soon, the popular ornamental varieties of Europe were imported and spread rapidly through the conservatories of the Northeast and the fabled Southern plantation gardens of Charleston, Mobile, Savannah and New Orleans. The blossom’s magnificence spread like wildfire, extending all the way to the West Coast before the Civil War.
The war and Reconstruction took their toll on many rare shrubs, and camellias fell from favor (or possibly were just forgotten) until the turn of the twentieth century. We have placed camellias from their American introduction until the beginning of World War I in the category we call Antique. These plants can still be found in Southern plantations such as Middleton Gardens in Charleston. In fact, you can grow an authentic living antique, as each camellia carries the same DNA as the original plant!
(World War I - 1949)
A new generation of plantsmen in the Southeast and on the West Coast imported quantities of seed from Japan and bred exciting new varieties following World War I. These varieties, along with the older Antiques, were planted widely throughout the Southeast and California. Many of these plants survive today in abandoned nurseries and neglected public gardens. In renovated older landscapes, they even thrive as trees. Camellias took their place as garden essentials during this period.
(1950 - 1959)
Camellias and camellia collecting vaulted in popularity during the 1950s. The American Camellia Society, founded in 1945, still thrives today in its promotion of the genus. Local, state and regional camellia organizations sprang up during the mid-1950s. The camellia industry could barely keep up with the demand, and the camellia show was the rage of the winter months. In fact, Bellingrath Gardens, once home to one of the finest collections in the world, had to use traffic policemen to help control the masses of autos visiting the cold-weather showcase.
New varieties in great number were produced during this period, but the burst of energy had its downside – many good garden varieties were overlooked in favor of the “show flower”. We are offering only the time-tested favorites from this era (1950 to 1959) while now evaluating hundreds of “found” varieties of the decade, many of which may be worthy garden subjects.
The modern camellias are often the result of careful breeding programs to achieve fragrance, color, cold hardiness or some other desirable characteristic. Many recent camellia introductions are outstanding as garden plants and yet are rarely seen outside collectors’ greenhouses. Often they carry excellent pedigrees of antique and heirloom parentage. They should not be confused with the difficult and demanding C. reticulata hybrids. While our focus is on the old, we find it hard to turn a blind eye to the wonderful work of many hybridizers who are still trying to create great shrubs with garden merit. This catalog includes only varieties we have evaluated for good garden characteristics.