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Annual Brookhaven Camellia Show is a blooming success

Despite the frigid weather, the Brookhaven Camellia Society’s 55th annual show was a blooming success.

Show Chairperson Homer Richardson said he and his wife, co-chairperson Lynn Richardson, would have been happy with 500 blooms entered into the camellia show, held Saturday at the Brookhaven Recreation Center.

“We had 791 blooms,” Richardson said. “We’re one of the biggest shows in the South this year.”

He said most camellia shows this season are averaging about 400 blooms.

“I would have been perfectly happy if I could have gotten up to 500 blooms,” he said. “I was surprised to have this many blooms make it.”

Richardson blames the cold weather. Camellias don’t do well in freezing temps so the snow in December and January were not ideal for Brookhaven camellia growers to be able to produce prize-winning blooms.

Fortunately, more than 50 judges from the Southern region attend to pick the best in dozens of classes in 15 separate categories and many bring blooms to compete in categories they aren’t judging.

This was the Richardsons’ 18th and final year as chairpersons of the show. They’re hoping some of the younger members will take on the task. In their time overseeing the show they’ve seen many years with more than 1,000 blooms entered.

Both entry into the show and entrance into the arena were free. More than 225 visitors came during the afternoon session after the judging, when the show was opened to the public.

One of the youngest camellia growers — named for her favorite flower — took first and second place in the Lincoln County Student category. Abby Camille Slay, 9, is a regular contributor. Her grandmother, Patti Perkins, is an international judge and has passed on her love and knowledge of the flowers to Abby.

Slay took first and second in the contest in 2017 as well.

About 50 awards were given this year, Richardson said. Some of the bigger award winners receive camellia-themed gifts like platters, plates and prints. Society member Poozie Swink, who is on the award committee with Mary Clark, Jacqui Patten and Society President Bill Perkins, is in charge of making sure the club has a large selection of awards, which the committee collects throughout the year.

“Every time she thinks she needs to get prizes, Betty Ann Perkins cleans out a china cabinet,” Lynn Richardson said, joking about Perkins’ vast collection of camellia mementos.

At the announcement that the Richardsons would be retiring as show chairs, they were gifted with a large engraved tray.

“They caught us completely off guard,” Richardson said.

The Brookhaven Camellia Society meets once a month at 6:30 p.m. September through April at Homestead at Brookhaven Nurseries. For more information, visit the Society’s Facebook page.