Garden grows memories, camellias

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Friends and family gathered Tuesday to honor a longtime camellialover and celebrate his life with the dedication of a new gardenoutside the Lincoln County Public Library.

An area filled with camellias and other blooming plants setaround the west entrance of the library by the Lincoln CountyMaster Gardeners and other volunteers was dedicated as the ThomasH. Perkins III Camellia Garden.

“To me a garden is a promise that life goes on,” said ShirleyEstes, past president of the Brookhaven Camellia Society. “This isa young garden. We will love and enjoy watching it grow.”

The garden was funded through gifts to the Brookhaven CamelliaSociety and Brookhaven Beautiful following Perkins’ death on Jan.1, 2000.

“We would like to thank everyone for this wonderful garden. Weare so proud of it,” said Perkins’ brother, Bill, to a large crowdgathered at the library.

Perkins’ love for camellias was evident in his own garden aswell as his involvement with camellia societies. His work rangedfrom the local level to the International Camellia Society, ofwhich he was president for six years.

“He has friends all around the world,” said Bill Perkins. “Ithink Thomas did a good job, particularly as a caretaker of whatGod put down here.”

The garden contains camellias that reflect Perkins’ life inunique ways, said Estes, who co-chaired many camellia shows withPerkins.

The camellias in the garden include the “Tom Perkins” and the”Boozie B” developed by F.F. “Boozie” Becker II, who was a fellowlover of camellias with Perkins.

Others are the Kumagai (Nagoya), which Perkins introduced to theUnited States from Japan in 1979; the O-nishiki, a sasanqua alsobrought to America by Perkins; and the Mikuni-No-Homare, aHigo.

“I recall the pleasure that Thomas derived in sharing his gardenwith others,” said William Crawford, another long-time friend.

Another camellia located in the garden is the Georgia Rouse, acamellia Perkins gave to friend Hyman Norsworthy of Beaumont,Texas. Norsworthy in turn gave it back to the Brookhaven CamelliaSociety for use in the garden.

“I brought eight more to be planted for Tom Perkins, who was afriend of mine for 40 years,” said Norsworthy.

Also present is the Shishigashira, a Mississippi Medallion AwardWinner for 2002.

“I think it’s a wonderful garden. We need to have more camelliagardens like this around,” said Marie Mizell, president of theCamellia Club of New Orleans and a vice president of the AmericanCamellia Society. She was also representing Bob Stroud,president-elect of ACS.

She and her husband, Max, often talked with Perkins aboutcamellias. They participated together in numerous camellia showsand other events over the last few decades.

Others who traveled far to view the beautiful camellia gardendedicated to their friend’s memory were Vincent Ciolino ofCovington, La., and Walter Krzymowski, of Slidell, La.

During the dedication, a few people were able to share memoriesof Perkins’ love for camellias. Perkins’ brother shared a story ofone of their first trips to a nursery in Alabama, where they oftenbought camellias.

“You should have seen the truck when we loaded it,” he said. “Ionly had three, and he must have had 30 camellias.”

His garden behind the library is now filled with young camelliasfor others to enjoy, as well as a bronze statute, named Nina, of agirl reading a book on a bench. The statue was a special gift fromPerkins’ immediate family.