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100th Sacramento Camellia Show attracts a crowd

People brave stormy weather to celebrate milestone and see lots of flowers

These were just a few of the camellia blossoms entered for judging at the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show.

These were just a few of the camellia blossoms entered for judging at the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show. Debbie Arrington


Rain couldn’t dampen Sacramento’s love of its favorite flower.

Over a soggy weekend March 2 and 3, more than 3,000 patrons – and hundreds of flowers – packed the Scottish Rite Center for the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show.

“We had more people than we’ve ever had, at least in many, many years,” said Julie Vierra, president of the Camellia Society of Sacramento and the show’s co-chair. “(The flow of people) was constant – it never stopped! We were very busy both days.”

The final tally, finished Monday night, was impressive: Some 47 exhibitors entered 1,743 blooms, Vierra said.  More than 3,100 guests attended the show.

“It was the biggest show we’ve ever had, at least since the early days at Memorial Auditorium,” Vierra added.

Living up to Sacramento’s moniker as the Camellia City, the Sacramento Camellia Show is recognized as the nation’s oldest and largest show of its kind. It’s been a highlight of Sacramento’s garden calendar since its 1924 debut. For decades, it filled Memorial Auditorium with flowers as part of the city’s Camellia Festival.

For its century milestone, the show moved from the Elks Lodge in Greenhaven to the larger Scottish Rite Center near Sacramento State in the River Park neighborhood. The new location and extra space were a hit, Vierra noted. “People said how much more they liked it.”

Light pink camellia blossom
This "Phyllis Hunt" camellia, grown by 
Don and Joan Lesmeister, won Best of Show. 

Cold rain and wind – which can quickly batter tender camellia blooms – were an extra challenge for exhibitors. About 1 inch of rain fell on Sacramento between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. The storm included gusty winds with blasts over 30 mph.

“We were picking (flowers) in the pouring rain on Friday night,” said Vierra, who won nine trophies with her camellias. “It just goes to show how hardy they can be. They can take a lot of beating and still look good.”

Sacramento stalwarts Don and Joan Lesmeister won Best of Show with "Phyllis Hunt," a spectacular Reticulata camellia that measured more than 7 inches across. The light pink variety originated in Australia in 1998.

“It was absolutely perfect – a gorgeous flower,” Vierra said of the winning bloom.

Best large Japonica camellia (the species found in most Sacramento gardens) went to "Black Magic," grown by Kathy Fields.

Dozens of flower arrangements were displayed by members of the Sacramento Floral Design Guild and Ikebana International, Sacramento.

Vierra noted many community members brought flowers from their gardens to enter in the flower show – or just to be identified.

“Sunday night when it was all over, I was really happy,” she said. “I felt good about all the work we did.”


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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the early hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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