Boosted by winter rain, camellias are back in bloom in the Camellia City – just in time for next week’s 93rd annual Sacramento Camellia Show. But Sacramento isn’t the only place celebrating this popular flower.
Folsom’s Murer House will host its third annual Camellia Day on Saturday, Feb. 25. It’s an appropriate setting. Several heritage camellia trees dot the Murer House gardens.
Nine decades after Sacramento started its camellia show, members of the Folsom Garden Club began their relatively recent camellia tradition, in part to help newcomers who didn’t grow up surrounded by these ubiquitous shrubs. Folks buy a house with decades-old camellias and don’t know which varieties – or how to care for them. (Hint: Camellias really like it here.)
“My father grew camellias as a hobby; that’s how I got into it,” said Folsom’s Tinka Davi, one of the Camellia Day organizers. “They’re the best thing to grow under eucalyptus trees.”
Although camellias are best known for their flush of February and early March blooms, Davi grows varieties that stretch camellia season from October to May.
“My Laurel Leaf started blooming before Halloween, and it’s still blooming,” she said. “Pope Pius IX is an overachiever; it blooms and blooms and blooms. Ave Maria is my favorite; it starts blooming in March and keeps blooming until the first 90-degree day.”
For many Sacramento-area residents, camellias hold plenty of nostalgia. The capital city’s Camellia Festival, which ran from 1955 to 1993, featured a debutante ball, princesses and a parade with flower-covered floats. The flowers themselves remind gardeners of generations past.
“There’s some sentimental feeling about camellias,” Davi said. “My parents had so many. Their friends had them, too.”
While the festival disappeared, the Sacramento Camellia Show stayed strong. It’s still the world’s largest and oldest flower show devoted to camellias.
Hosted by the Camellia Society of Sacramento, this year’s 93rd annual show is shaping up well, said longtime chairman Don Lesmeister. Except for white varieties, recent heavy rain did not do that much damage to blooms.
“Cold weather kills more than rain,” he said. “Some varieties don’t open well if it gets too cold. It sets them back. Overall, it’s been a small problem this season. It’s either too hot or too cold. Every year is different.”
What can be problematic is petal blight, which turns camellias to brown mush. To stop the spread of this fungal disease, always pick up spent blooms underneath the shrubs.
“Two days of rain, then warm weather; that’s when petal blight comes out,” Lesmeister said. “But so far, it’s not a problem – knock on wood. I’m surprised I don’t see more.”
Third annual Camellia Day
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25
Where: Murer House, 1125 Joe Murer Court, Folsom
Information: 916-985-3250, www.murerhouse.org
Highlights: The public may bring up to five camellias for identification or judging. Entries for the flower show should arrive 9:30-10:30 a.m. Special presentations include Green Acres’ Greg Gayton as guest speaker at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
93rd annual Sacramento Camellia Show
When: 3-6 p.m. Saturday, March 4; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 5
Where: Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J St., Sacramento
Highlights: Enter cut camellia blooms or camellia photos 7-10 a.m. Saturday, March 4. See website for rules.