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Hard winter reduces bloom numbers for Camellia show

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / An unusually cold stretch has delayed the bloom of area camellias. Still, Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes finds reason for hope among the buds of her plants. Estes in one of many local camellia enthusiasts that participate in the annual camellia show in Brookhaven each year.

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / An unusually cold stretch has delayed the bloom of area camellias. Still, Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes finds reason for hope among the buds of her plants. Estes in one of many local camellia enthusiasts that participate in the annual camellia show in Brookhaven each year.

Camellias, a distinctly southern flower, will take top billing in Brookhaven this weekend at the local camellia society’s 51st Annual Camellia Show despite an unusually frigid winter.’

The event will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Brookhaven Recreation Center on Highway 51 North. The show will be open to the public free of charge from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon until 4 p.m. Sunday. Plants also will be on sale Saturday.

Local entries are welcome and may be brought to the Recreation Center Saturday from 7:30 to 11:00 a.m. Saturday. Area residents also may bring by a bloom from their plants to have them identified by the growers.

While extended cold weather has delayed the camellia blooms, the show will still go on, says Brookhaven Camellia Society Chairman Homer Richardson.

Richardson and wife Lynn Richardson are co-chairs of the 35-member Brookhaven Camellia Society, and have been growing camellias since 1989. Their love of the plant grew on them after receiving word that they had won a bush from an exhibit they attended years ago.

Twenty-five years later, and the husband and wife team are still planting them.

Due to consecutive hard freezes across the south, show organizers have a more modest estimate than previous years on how many blooms will be at the event. “Estimates

One of very few camellias that have bloomed so far this year shows weather damage from the cold.

One of very few camellias that have bloomed so far this year shows weather damage from the cold.

are much more modest this year due to the cold weather. We’ll probably see close to 500 outside blooms this year,” Homer Richardson said.

In recent years, show averages have numbered anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500 blooms.

A majority of this year’s blooms will come from inside growers, according to Richardson. “With the extreme weather, we expect to see camellias that have been grown in a more temperature-controlled atmosphere such as a greenhouse. These blooms, I suspect, will comprise a good part of the show,” he said.

Camellias bloom in cycles, he explained. There’s an October and November bloom and then a January and February bloom. Normally, the show’s date falls within a perfect timeframe for the blooming camellias.

However, this year’s unusually frigid temperatures have been devastating to the camellias’ typical bloom time.

“Camellias won’t bloom in this temperature. They will bloom eventually, there’s no doubt about that, but for most of them, not when we want them to,” he said.

Camellias are evergreen shrubs or small trees up to 66 feet tall. Usually, the camellia has large flowers from one to 12 centimeters in diameter, with five to nine petals. The plant variety is a particular characteristic that Lynn Richardson finds intriguing.

“I’m not saying a camellia is promiscuous, but they do seem to like to reproduce.”

There are up to 50,000 varieties of camellias, all with different names.

One particular variety of the plant, the camellia sinensis, is of major commercial importance to the south since tea is made out of its leaves. The exceptional blooming ground that the south offers goes hand in hand with the love of sweet tea, and this is just one of the reasons the plant has become a true Southern treasure.

Other reasons to appreciate the camellia are more aesthetic, according to the Richardsons.

“If God made an ugly camellia, none of us has ever seen it,” said Lynn.

It’s addictive, growing camellias,” said Homer. “The sheer variety, texture and the leaves of the plant are all intriguing to me. It’s not a hobby I would have anticipated, though, but it’s become a fun thing to do.”

Camellia flower colors can vary from white through pink colors to red. Less familiar varieties can range from yellow to gold in appearance.

Normally around this time of year, a mosaic of hues can be seen throughout the town, and many varieties sprout their blooms in Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes yard.

Estes even has a variety named after her.

“I have one named after me, and I plan on having one named after my late husband, Don Estes.”

Estes and other area residents and flower enthusiasts look forward to the camellia show every year, and bring their own camellias with them. The 40 to 50 judges that will be in attendance bring their own camellias as well.

During the show, judges will consider a number of different categories in their judging. There will be separate awards for indoor and outdoor growing. The Don Estes award will be awarded to a Lincoln County camellia grower. There will also be a Tom Perkins award.

Judges are prohibited from voting on their own entries.

Past year’s shows have enjoyed great success. On average, 300 to 400 onlookers show up to view the camellias.

This year’s show is sponsored by Bank of Brookhaven, First Bank, Trustmark Bank, Brookhaven Nursery, Dungan Engineering, Waste Pro and WKG, Inc.

One of the shows best years was in 2012. Then, the show saw more than 2,500 blooms, the largest amount ever according to Lynn Richardson.