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Arboretum & NCSU Extension Service

Posted on: February 20, 2023

New Hanover Arboretum to host a spring camellia show and sale

photo of Diane Clark

It’s camellia season. Come out to the New Hanover County Arboretum and enjoy the display.

The camellia tradition continues with the Tidewater Camellia Club’s annual Camellia Show and Festival on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the New Hanover County Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive, Wilmington. The event is free and open to the public.

The Arboretum’s camellia garden began in the 1980s with camellias donated by Wilmington’s Tidewater Camellia Club. Later, Tidewater and the Cape Fear Women's Club collaborated over several years to develop the arboretum’s Camellia Walk as an educational and beautiful addition to the garden and Tidewater recently commissioned a camellia sculpture as a focal point along the walk.

The camellias chosen for the walk demonstrate both historical and current varied flower forms available today. Tidewater continues to support the expansion of the camellia garden, which is now officially recognized as an American Camellia Trail Garden by the American Camellia Society.

Camellia Statue

Historically, camellias were native to China and Japan and camellia sinensis was and continues to be widely cultivated for its leaves to produce tea.  Camellias were first introduced to Europe at the end of the eighteenth century.  Their cultivation expanded to include camellias prized for decorative blooms, such as japonicas.  By 1840, they were found in many countries, including the United States, and became known as the “Queen of the Winter Flowers”.   

The popularity of camellias continued to grow and by the 1950s camellia clubs began to organize and host competitive camellia shows.  Wilmington's Tidewater Camellia Club organized in 1952 and held its first show the following year.  The selection of camellia flower varieties exploded over the years due to camellia enthusiasts developing new flower forms, with over 26,000 unique camellias recognized by the International Camellia Society today. 

Locally, members of the Tidewater Camellia Club have developed over 100 different new varieties, and many are still available today, including Les Marbury, Dr. Tinsley, Tomorrow and Dr. Zhivago.

Pink camellia

 At the show and festival, camellia exhibitors from the southeastern United States will display their blooms for evaluation by American Camellia Society. The public is invited to enter their blooms from 8-10 a.m. Special events begin at 12:30 p.m. and include a huge camellia plant sale, camellia care presentations, arboretum camellia garden tours, floral displays by local clubs, fun family activities, plus the popular New Hanover County School Camellia Art Display. For more information and times, please visit www.tidewatercamelliaclub.org or https://www.facebook.com/TidewaterCamelliaClub/.

Diane Clark serves as the show chair for the Tidewater Camellia Club in Wilmington, N.C. Clark can be reached at dccondeck@gmail.com. The Arboretum grounds are open daily from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. 910-798-7660.  

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