For almost half of my life, I have been wandering around old camellia gardens in search of other growers’ lost loves. Trying to find clues has not always been easy, but every now and then I get lucky. Most of the time, the only clues are the flowers and the plants when I am trying to identify camellias. However sometimes, I find tags that can help to narrow a search considerably. Just because you find a tag doesn’t mean that you have discovered the identity of a lost love. I have seen many instances where tags are incorrect. Sometimes, people will try to identify old camellias by looking in a book and then labeling an old camellia with a tag bearing the name of what they think they have found. In most instances, these tags will lead you in the wrong direction. If I can find original tags from the original owners of the camellias, I have some incredibly valuable information.
One of the prettiest white flowering camellias is an old variety called ‘Colonial Dame’. This camellia was introduced in 1955 by Tick Tock Nursery. It is described as having large white flowers that are semidouble to peony to formal double in form. The white flowers can also have a blush pink color at times. It generally blooms midseason but can bloom earlier and later as well. The plant is upright and vigorous with beautiful dark green foliage. This variety was widely distributed in the past under the name of ‘Gertrude Murray’ as well. Fifty years ago, many camellia growers loved ‘Colonial Dame’, and now another generation can enjoy it as well. We must continue to rediscover these lost loves and preserve them for all those that come behind us!
Gene Phillips has a passion for camellia preservation and writes a regular feature column for the American Camellia Society’s Camellia Journal. To read more of these columns, join the American Camellia Society by visiting their website at www.americancamellias.com