There are some things in life that you just can’t get enough of, like good friends, good food, and things that bring you joy. It’s easy to add more friends and food to your life, the two go together so well! However, continually adding things that bring joy to your life can leave you with more stuff than your house could ever hold. That’s why I collect plants! They add so much richness to my life, but unlike inanimate things, they take care of themselves after a while. Camellias are one of my absolute favorite plants to collect! Ask any gardener with a shady yard and they’ll tell you the same, “you can’t have too many camellias”. Good collections should have a theme, and stick to that theme in order to illuminate a special element of the collection. Camellias have been grown by gardeners for roughly 1000 years, which has yielded literally thousands upon thousands of named cultivars. With so much variation one gardener can never have them all, so how do you decide which ones to collect?
A Representative Sample
Include one example of each attribute to create a diverse collection that shows the breadth of what camellias have to offer. Camellias really lend themselves to this type of collection because of their incredible diversity of blooms. Choose one specimen that exemplifies each petal arrangement, flower color, and bloom size.
Variations on a Theme
This is my preferred style. Pick an attribute that is interesting or important to you and collect variations of that aspect. I love single camellia blooms with cheerful, open centers. Bees and other
pollinators are able to collect pollen from those exposed yellow centers. While many pollinators take long naps through the barren winter months, changing weather patterns have meant more and more insects wake up for some part of the winter. That means those helpful pollinators need something to eat when many of their traditional flower sources aren’t yet available. I frequently see honey bees and wasps visiting my collection of open center camellia blooms in the winter. Of course, feel free to pick any theme you want. Formal double blooms of every color, the biggest blooms you can find, or variegated flowers would all make amazing collections that explore variations of a theme.
I Want That!
Undoubtedly, the most common collection theme is “stuff I just had to have.” Most collections are built accidentally, over time, and often as a result of friends and family giving you gifts you didn’t ask for. I once had a bedroom full of cow themed items. While I was guilty in starting that problem I never intended it to go as far as black and white splotched lightswitch covers. That being said, “stuff I wanted” is a theme, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve never seen an ugly camellia and any collection of them will be pretty. Just remember, a little planning could take your garden from pretty to downright impressive. Start your camellia collection today and you’ll see winter in a whole new light, illuminated by the bright pinks, reds, and whites of your gorgeous camellia blooms. Like me, you’ll start to eagerly anticipate each winter when you can go hunting for the next great addition to your ever-growing and ever-inspiring collection.
*This article was written by Jonathan Burns (Tallahassee Nurseries Outdoor Manager, FNGLA Florida Certified Horticulture Professional) using years of personal observations growing in the Tallahassee area.