Camellias are favorites in the southern garden, having glossy evergreen foliage and blooming through the winter when few other things are in bloom. Frost often turns the blooms into brown mush, but this winter has been so mild that the camellias are full of blooms. The blooms are white, pink, red, single, double, and variegated. Many cultivars of camellia japonica have been developed and given expressive names like ‘Pink Perfection’, ‘Debutante’, and ‘Pearl Maxwell’.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I visited his favorite uncle in North Carolina. Uncle Wallace had a beautiful lakeside garden with traditional plantings of wisteria, irises, forsythia, and camellias. He gave me rooted cuttings of plants that are still in our garden today. When he gave me a camellia, I asked him if he knew what variety it was. He took his cigar out of his mouth, holding in between thumb and forefinger, shook it for emphasis, and said, “It’s the PINK one!”
The unidentified pink camellia has grown into a small shrub that is blooming profusely this year. When I cut these blossoms and arranged them, I was glad to have the remembrance of Uncle Wallace in my garden, and I enjoyed some good memories of him while I was painting.