My Dad’s Camellias Are A Welcome Bright Spot In The Middle Of Winter

camellia bowl

There’s not much I look forward to in the month of January. Christmas has come and gone, and all we’re left with are gray days and weather that can’t make up its mind. The lone bright spot for me in these dreary winter months is my dad’s collection of camellias, which burst into brilliant color every year when the temperature drops. For me, the flowers have become synonymous with my dad, who floats his clippings in a camellia bowl for the rest of us to enjoy up close. But the way he tells it, his camellia-growing career nearly ended before it started.

Despite having a green thumb (the product of having grown up on a farm in rural South Carolina), he didn’t recognize the glossy, not-flowering-at-the-time shrub in the yard of his and my mom’s first house in Charleston. And he didn’t learn what it was until he’d hacked off some limbs in order to build a fence for the rescue pup they’d just brought home.

“I saw our neighbor, Mrs. Edith, looking at the bush, with her hand on her hip, her shoulders sagged down, and her cigarette between her fingers,” he tells me. He apologized for the fence-building noise—and then realized her eyes were fixed only on the shrub. “So I said, I don’t know what that plant is, but I hope I didn’t kill it,” he remembers. “And she said, ‘I hope you didn’t too. That’s a Drama Girl that I helped so-and-so plant 20 years ago.’ I asked her what that was, and she told me it was a camellia. That was where my education began.”

The 'Betsy' camellia growing in my parents' backyard

Over the five years my parents lived in that house, my dad and Mrs. Edith forged a friendship. He’d help dig up stumps in her yard; she’d teach him how to graft camellias, how to propagate them with pickle jars and paper bags, and how to plant them under oak trees where the soil was more acidic. “She smiled like I’d won an Olympic gold medal when my first graft took,” he says. “She was happier than I was.”

When my parents moved to a new home, he brought along some of the camellias he and Mrs. Edith had cultivated together, including one that she gifted him right after I was born—a sport that she told him she’d “been saving for something special.” She named it for me, and the frilly flower, with its pink-red petals and its yellow anthers, still grows in my parents’ backyard today—one of dozens of living memories of the woman who taught my dad so much.

As for that first shrub he nearly obliterated? That’s now his favorite camellia variety. “Just to look at them, you can’t beat a Drama Girl,” he says. “They make so many flowers they look like they’re going to break the bush they’re on.”

Related Posts

Advice For Developing Vibrant Color Lilies, or Calla Lilies

Although not considered true lilies, the calla lily (Zantedeschia sp.) is an extraordinary flower. This beautiful plant, available in a multitude of colors, grows from rhizomes and is ideal for use in beds and borders. You can also grow …

How to use pots to enhance the attractiveness of your garden

If you’re looking for another way to update your flower beds, try this great spilled flower pot idea. There are tons of beautiful ways to use broken flower pots or simply use brand new ones to create this look. The flowing flowers can …

Flowers That Echo the Majesty of Birds

Have you eveг eпcouпteгed a floweг that looked so much like a biгd that you did a double take? If пot, you’гe iп foг a tгeat! Aгouпd the woгld, you caп fiпd a fasciпatiпg aггay of floweгs that have evolved to гesemble ouг featheгed fгieпds. …

Taking care of and cultivating white succulents

Growing and caring for white succulents Succulents fall into many different genera and come from many parts of the world. What unites them is their ability to withstand long periods without water. Many succulents are native to dry, arid …

Incredible Garden Planter Ideas Using Tree Stump

One of the quickest ways to create an eyesore in your yard is to cut down a tree. Although no one really wants to cut down trees, sometimes it is a necessity. What you are left with is a tree stump, which can be costly to remove. An …

Wonderful types of flowers to plant this year

Summer may be over, but don’t put those flower vases away just yet. With the arrival of fall and colder weather comes beautiful, varied floral varieties and backyard foliage like sunny goldenrod, jewel-toned dahlias, seasonal seeds pods …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *