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Sacramento celebrates favorite flower at 100th Camellia Show

Milestone event to be at new location: Scottish Rite Center

These camellia blossoms were displayed on the trophy table during the 2022 Camellia Show.

These camellia blossoms were displayed on the trophy table during the 2022 Camellia Show. Debbie Arrington

For a special milestone, Camellia City is celebrating its namesake flower in style – with an amazing camellia show and sale at a new location.

This weekend, March 2 and 3, the Camellia Society of Sacramento will host the 100th annual Camellia Show at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Show hours are 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

In addition to the show, the society will offer more than 250 camellia plants for sale, mostly in unusual and hard-to-find varieties. Proceeds from the sale help support the show. Donations are also welcome.

As a special commemorative, the society will sell buttons and refrigerator magnets saluting the 100th anniversary. A popular attraction is camellia waxing – preserved blooms encased in wax.

This beauty, a Frank Houser Variegated camellia,
grown by Julie Vierra, won Best of Show
at the 2023 Sacramento Camellia Show.

Highlighting the show, hundreds of blooms will be on display, with a trophy table packed with the very best. In addition, a photo contest will present camellias at their peak of beauty. Flower arrangements featuring camellias will be displayed by the Sacramento Floral Design Guild and Ikebana International, Sacramento.

The public is invited to enter blooms from their own gardens. Entry deadline is 10 a.m. Saturday; doors open at 7:30 a.m for entries.

First held in 1924, the Sacramento Camellia Show predates the local Camellia Society (which formed in 1943) by almost two decades. The early show took a year off in 1933 due to a hard freeze in December 1932 that destroyed camellia buds.

Before the Camellia Society took over, the first shows were run by the Tuesday Club (a local women’s literary and social club that at one time had 1,200 members) and then the Sacramento Garden Club, which formed in part to organize the camellia show.

Camellias were so popular because, at that time, almost everyone seemed to have at least one bush in their garden. Many heritage camellia plants, dating back several decades, still dot local parks and public places.

Sacramento’s camellia history dates back to the Gold Rush era: In 1852 a local nurseryman imported thousands of camellia plants from Japan. James Warren thought he was getting Camellia sinensis – the common tea plant; these plants could be in demand for tea-loving Chinese workers and miners. Instead, Warren received flowering camellias (most likely Camellia japonica). He sold them to Sacramento customers to decorate their gardens.

Thriving in Sacramento’s climate, these imported camellias quickly became popular; they bloom in late winter when few other plants do. Their shiny foliage looks good year-round.

By the 1920s, Sacramento leaders marketed their town as the Camellia City with its own Camellia FestivalModeled after Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses, the festival featured a royal court, parade, formal dance and even a football game.

Focusing on the flower, the Camellia Society still showcases Sacramento’s favorite bloom – long after the Camellia Bowl played its final down. Thanks to their efforts, camellias are still being enjoyed – and celebrated – in Sacramento today.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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