I have enjoyed a membership with the local city garden for a few years. I like to go there during certain seasons of the year and it also holds special memories as the site for our daughter’s wedding. Sometimes I take a visiting family member or friend for walking in serene surroundings.
The garden offers discounted year-around classes for members and I have never taken advantage of that benefit. However, when I saw an announcement for the Camellia Walking Tour, I thought I would invite a friend to go with me. Earlier in life I had not considered camellias but now I enjoy seeing the varieties that bloom in winter.
The tour group of about 12 people met with the gardening director one weekday morning. Our gardener has directed at least three municipal gardens in his career and spent more than 25 years at the present garden. He travels the world collecting camellias (from 200+ different species) and has developed the third largest collection. He is a real encyclopedia of camellias and garden history.
What I Learned
Our gardener showed us how the flower buds are pruned to one for each branch while dead or crossing branches are removed. There is only so much vital energy in each plant. Air flow is also important for health. We were cautioned to not move any plants higher than our waists, and carefully study the requirements for each variety of camellia we might be interesting in adding to our gardens. The gardener showed us a few of his tricks—such as using a growth hormone injection in some flower buds that are near the walkways so visitors always have a few large flowers to enjoy out of regular season. We listened and asked questions in the sunshine for more than two hours.
The flowers and trees in our city garden have had to endure several major hurricanes resulting in the loss of literally hundreds of trees. Some of the camellias that were planted in the shade ended up living in bright sunlight. Some of the plants adapted and survived, while others could not adapt and died. My most important lesson of the day: toxic insect sprays or treatments are not necessary if camellias are kept strong and healthy. Pests attack trees that have weak immune systems! A few pests can be controlled with some simple safe soaps and oils.
My mind starting making correlations for camellia care and the human species. Different species bloom at select times of the year. Perhaps different kinds of people require different “locations” for planting? Consider sunlight, air, soil, fertilizer, and pruning for beautiful growth. The proper care and feeding can result in great resilience and strong immunity. Pests attack weak immunity. (Some humans even use forced hormones to show off as large and strong!)
I appreciate the designs of a Master Gardener and the beautiful variety of flowers and humans. So I am encouraged to educate myself and then try planting a camellia at home. I want to return to the garden in the next few weeks as varieties of camellias and azaleas are displaying their blooms. Humans will always be drawn back to the gardens.
Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:
- Read John 15:1-8 or the whole chapter. Write or talk about your thoughts on these verses.
- What life lessons do you see from the care and feeding of camellias?
Karen Spruill writes from Florida.
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