INTRODUCTION to Richard Mims and his Camellia Conversation, below.
Those of us who have become obsessed with plants and growing can surely relate to this week’s guest writer, Richard Mims, and his frustration with growing camellia blossoms for shows. It is an entertaining read, no matter whether you have suffered the frustrations of a poorly growing shrub or not. He was provoked into writing it because one of his prized camellias, Camellia ‘Swan Lake’, which had a couple of beautiful show flowers last year, just shriveled up and died.
Richard has been a camellia expert for fifty years. He is an ACS accredited Camellia Flower Show judge; Past President (this last time, serving for 10 years) of the Mid-Carolina Camellia Society; Editor of the Atlantic Coast Camellia Society Journal; Director atlarge, State Director, and Chairman of the Publication Committee for the American Camellia Society; and winner many times over of camellia flower shows. When he flew to Seattle for a national camellia show, he carried his award-winning blossoms on his lap. He won the National Flower of the Year the Arminta Cawood Award with the coddled blossoms of Camellia japonica ‘Tomorrow’s Dawn’ at the American Camellia Society Convention 2003 and again in 2005 with the Camellia japonica ‘Ruffian’.
His article first appeared in the Atlantic Coast Camellia Society September 2010 Journal. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Listen! I am just fed up with you. I have had it up to my neck and it is almost going into my brain! You know I love you and would do anything within my power to keep each one of you happy and growing vigorously. Every time I come out here to enjoy your magnificence, some of you unappreciative cads have shriveled up, lost leaves, and even died. You don’t care a whit about all the attention you have received and the money I have spent on medicine and food to keep you healthy.
With the expensive fuels, how in the world can you expect me to keep you sheltered and warm in winter? The very least you could do would be to put on one good flower that will Wow the judges and win me twenty-five dollars.
No, you just want to die and go to dust. You don’t really care that I have spent hundreds and thousands of dollars for such things as YOU, your house, your container, your soil, your water, your Safari*, Key Plex*, Nsure*, or whatever. Sometimes I think instead of being a camellia, you are an unappreciative BRAT.
Don’t you know that having lice places you in the lower echelon of society? Why in the world will you not quit being a SAP and exude some sap to keep yourself clean so you don’t get lice, and scales, and-even more terrible-that Sclerotinia camelliae**. I would just suggest to you, right now, that you start acting normal and just get acne. At least we have a cure for those brown spots and speckles.
I have never heard of something as stupid as growing your roots out and stopping up the holes in your container, which cuts off drainage and causes you to soak in your own stale filth. Are you so stupid as not to know that this causes root rot and even death? It even encourages those little fungus gnats to brazenly have sex around your feet and let larvae gnaw into your flesh.
Hey! Get a life! Shame on you! Think! Help me keep you alive.
I am just so fed up with you after all the attention you get and my time that you use. If you don’t stop dying on me, I am just going to see to it that you are CREMATED.
I am going to give you a great opportunity to show your very best and even be a Best Flower in Show. People will look at you and go, “Ooooh,” and “Ahhhh,” and even write down your name to obtain a beauty just like you.
You can listen to me and kick the limb-dying habit, the flower-blighting habit, the stopping-up-your-container habit and other attention-getting notices you want to flaunt. If you don’t behave like a good camellia, I assure you that you will be ashes to ashes and not dust to dust.
I am sick and tired of walking out to the greenhouse and seeing you, sickly plant, surrounded by healthy ones in magnificent shiny green glory. This tells me you are spoiled rotten and just want my personal attention. I’m telling you right now that my greenhouse is not a hospital; it is a happy place for happy plants. You live well here or you can go back where you came from.
I urge you to pay close attention to what I’m going to say next. You can take me seriously and enjoy a good life OR suffer the consequences - the burn pile. Please remember that I love you and will try to care for you. But, do something for yourself. Be a healthy plant and with my help throw off things that might harm you.
You get the same attention as the healthy plant beside you and should behave accordingly. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU???
By Kate Karam, Monrovia,
Photos courtesy of
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