GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)- Camellias are a southern staple but spend most of the warm weather months sitting quietly in the shade. It's not until you start to feel a chill in the air that camellia shrubs begin their annual display of color.
Camellias are native to Asia but are so prized for their flowers in the south they were named the Alabama state flower in 1959.
For many people who catch the camellia bug, this plant feels like home. That was the case for Irma Valez, the former Gainesville Camellia Society President. She's a Miami native who found a love for camellias in search for color in North Florida. For Tv20's Alex Calamia, camellias were a big part of Springtime at his grandmother's house on Long Island, New York. Large Camellias up north are hard to find, but this specimen was over 50 years old and the focal point of many photos because of how unusual it was compared to other northern plants.
Here in the south, camellias often need little care to thrive, but for the Gainesville Camellia Society and other hobbyists, giving these plants some special attention is part of the fun.
Jerry Hogsette, the president of the Gainesville Camellia Society explains that some growers will add a drop of gibberellin near a flower bud because this blend of chemicals will make flowers grow bigger and bloom earlier.
At the annual Camellia show in Kanapaha Botanical Garden, hundreds attend to see the best and brightest blooms. This year about 1500 blooms were submitted by growers for judging by the American Camellia Society. Some blooms were large, others small, and a few featured colors rarely seen in Camellias.