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  • Manny Crisostomo /

    The 89th Sacramento Camellia Show and sale will feature exhibits and 200 kinds of plants for sale at the Memorial Auditorium.

  • Julie Vierra

    Artist Joanne Tsukamoto designed the winning camellia show button, which will sell for $1.

  • Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Camellia show celebrates the flower's power

Published: Friday, Mar. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 3, 2013 - 2:32 pm

Some events never lose their charm – or their drawing power.

Camellias continue to captivate Sacramento. Thousands of flower fans will turn out this weekend for the 89th Sacramento Camellia Show and sale at Memorial Auditorium.

Featuring hundreds of flowers, this free event remains a must-see tradition. For the past three years, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson took time out from his hectic schedule to officially open the show, noted Carol Schanz, president of the Camellia Society of Sacramento. He's expected again today.

Johnson isn't the only local dignitary to come smell the camellias. After his return to Sacramento as a downtown resident, Gov. Jerry Brown dropped by unannounced to tour a recent show while walking first dog Sutter.

"He just wanted to see the camellias," recalled club secretary Julie Vierra. "Everybody was really excited. He said he went to shows with his mother when he was a child and always liked the flowers."

Bernice Brown, wife of Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown and Jerry's mom, was among many prominent supporters of the show celebrating Sacramento's official flower. Other California first ladies also participated in opening ceremonies and show-related events.

"We are the Camellia Capital," said Schanz. "People don't forget."

Revered for their winter beauty, camellias still live up to this year's show theme: "Flower Power."

"We look at the camellias as a flower that brings so many people together," Schanz said. "It has the power of attention.

"They have a huge amount of history in Sacramento," she added. "We're the oldest camellia show in the U.S. – 89 years! That's quite remarkable. We're also one of the largest shows in the nation."

Camellias have flourished in Sacramento since the 1850s. By the 1920s, Sacramento had earned the nickname "Camellia City of the World." Scores of heritage bushes and trees – some dating back almost a century – still dot the gardens of downtown homes and landmarks.

"We actually have some of the best camellias in the nation," Schanz said. "In the Southeast, their season is already over. We get visitors from other states and they're amazed by our flowers."

Home to many decades-old camellias, the Capitol continued to do its part with Camellia Day on Thursday. Volunteers from the California State Capitol Museum distributed hundreds of handmade corsages made from heritage camellias grown on the Capitol grounds.

Dedicated in 1953 as a living memorial, Capitol Park's Pioneer Camellia Grove still boasts 183 bushes, many no longer available commercially. More than 800 camellia bushes are scattered throughout Capitol Park.

As part of another long tradition, the show will offer its official button for sale today and Sunday. For the second consecutive year, local artist Joanne Tsukamoto created the winning design, chosen from dozens of entries.

"We've been selling buttons since 1964," said Schanz, noting the proceeds help pay for the auditorium's rental. "The price is still $1. That's got to be a record for lack of inflation."

Besides table after table of exhibition blooms, the show features arrangements made with camellias and a photo contest. The society also will sell about 200 plants, many unavailable at local nurseries.

On Sunday, artists will paint camellia-related scenes or still lifes and offer their work for sale.

This winter's wacky weather has been a little rough on these February flowers.

"It's been a little more challenging season because of the cold weather," Schanz said. "The blooms have not been opening up like they should."

This week's sunny days came just in time.

"We'll have lots of beautiful flowers," she added. "With warmer weather this week, the show should be just spectacular."


Where: Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J St., Sacramento

When: 3-6 p.m. today, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free


Entries: The public is invited to enter cut camellia blooms from 7 to 10:30 a.m. today. Arrive before 10 a.m. for help with identification.

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