Camellia Club of Mobile Inc. Newsletter

Issue 6 - Vol. X                                              March  2014



As everyone knows, the weather so far this year has been atrocious, but has slightly moderated in the past week or so prompting our much delayed camellias to burst into bloom.  (Though I have to admit that as I write this on March 5th the weather outside is pretty darn chilly and damp!)  However it seems we are all seeing lots of blooms so the Club invites everyone to bring the best specimens they have to the March 9th Meeting and display them for the enjoyment of all.  Certainly there will be blooms that you would like to have in your collection, so why not bring several stamped self-addressed 9” x 6” padded envelopes that you can give to any Club member who is willing to send you a scion of their plant.  Larry Heard & Robert Moore are donating some awards for the best blooms - these are arriving ready-wrapped so they are surprises! Don’t forget to bring your camera, you could get a picture that will win one of the four prizes being awarded in our April Photo Contest.  Looking forward to seeing you and your blooms!


This season’s Garden Tour was at the home of Jimmy Walker and Leo Brown on February 23.  Despite drizzling weather a large number of Club members turned out, complete with umbrellas and sturdy shoes to wander through this spectacular large property. I gave up on the umbrella and had a great time exploring, saw so many varieties that I hadn’t seen before.  The refreshments provided by Jimmy and Leo were superb and it became a very social afternoon inside their house.  Our thanks to Vickie Baugh for arranging this most enjoyable tour, and very special thanks to Leo and Jimmy for permitting so many damp soggy people to traipse through their garden and end up in their lovely home!  By the way, guys, people are asking for recipes from your refreshment spread!



First, I must apologize to Margaret Lauder for spelling her surname wrong in the last Newsletter.  Margaret won the Novice Trophy for best large novice bloom at our 2014 Camellia Show.  She exhibited a splendid specimen of “Mathotiana” which really deserved the award.  

The Mobile Festival of Flowers will be taking place again this year on the Providence Hospital campus from March 20th to 23rd. Bill & I went to the very first Festival just a year or so after we moved to Alabama and attended all the seminars – the most interesting one was on camellias given by our own Jim Oates.  That autumn we contacted Jim and he came to our property to see if it was suitable to grow camellias, he also took us to Vernon Howell’s nursery in Mississippi to buy plants, and here we are, over twenty years later, with more than 200 different varieties!  This year I will be giving a talk on English Gardens (1-2 p.m. March 21) and our Club Secretary Martha Terry will be demonstrating how to Create a Backyard Bird Habitat (10-11 a.m. March 22).   Love to see you there, but no heckling allowed!

While on the subject of birds, for many years we have watched tiny little birds called kinglets – both ruby-crowned and gold-crowned species – flitting busily throughout our live-oaks and other trees.  Two weeks ago while standing in our jungle of camellias north of the house, I was startled to see one of these birdlets zipping among the camellias, totally unafraid of my presence.  Carefully tracking it I watched it dash up to the golden stamens of “Carter’s Sunburst”, stop and flutter like a chubby hummingbird for a second of two, then zoom up to do the same thing among the stamens of “Moonlight Bay”.  It is known in the world of ornithophily that there are birds that pollinate flowers (the hummingbirds are the most well-known) but I had no idea that our wee kinglets did it – and from what I have managed to read about them in the past few days, neither did anyone else! They are described as insectivorous (eat bugs), their tiny beaks don’t seem adapted to getting nectar, - maybe we have little bugs in our camellias??? Bill and I saw a kinglet doing the same “hover and flutter” a day or so ago on “Charlean” directly behind the house….

While browsing through the website of The Atlantic Coast Camellia Society (atlanticcoastcamelliasociety.org) the other day I found some very interesting historic camellia catalogs and some historic camellia show programs.  Really informative, especially the catalogs which include ones from Flowerwood Nursery in Mobile.  If you go on the website just scroll down to the bottom of the first page and you will find “Historic Camellia Catalogs” and “Historic Show Programs” at the bottom of the page on the left.  These date back to the 1940’s in some cases, about the time our club was just starting out.  I think you can print them out.  Also, if you look in the photo section of the ACCS last meeting you will find a picture of our Jim Smelley receiving an Award of Merit.  As the Aussies say “good on you, Jim!”. 


Camellia Propagation Meeting well attended 

Our annual propagation meeting was very well attended by long-time and brand-new members.  We were glad to welcome several new members who joined at the January Show.  People went home happily clutching newly grafted plants and handfuls of scions to be grafted at home.  I know I was delighted to buy several scions to add to our collection of camellias, including “Ivory Tower”.  The Club thanks all our experts who demonstrated the various types of camellia propagation, plus those who donated such excellent scions. It was a busy meeting with good food (as usual), much knowledge imparted, lots of socializing.  Good time was had by all!