Today as I write this latest installment of “Lost Loves”, the temperatures are barely making it above freezing, and the forecast for tomorrow is for 2-3 inches of snow. Looks like my wanderings through the old gardens of Savannah and the counties all around will be put on hold until the weather improves. Once the extreme cold and snow clears out, you could not ask for a better time of year. When the camellias begin to bloom in mass in our old gardens, they offer up many clues to their identity. Recently with the help of my friend Marsha Zeagler, we began a new chapter in camellia preservation about 40 miles northwest of Savannah in the little town of Brooklet, Georgia. We are beginning to uncover the old gardens of Johnny Aldrich who was a camellia enthusiast and nurseryman. I knew Johnny years ago and used to stop by and visit him often when I was a lot younger. It has been around twenty years since Johnny’s garden began to be reclaimed by nature, but we are already finding lost loves and many with the metal tags still attached. These old gardens like Johnny’s are waiting for someone to find across America. Why don’t you join in on the fun in your community?
Kosaku Sawada was one of America’s greatest camellia growers, and he introduced many outstanding varieties during his celebrated lifetime. If there ever was royalty among American Camellia Growers, this man was certainly part of that designation. One of the camellias that was introduced by his Overlook Nurseries in Alabama was the impressive Camellia japonica ‘K. Sawada’ named in honor of the man himself. Sadly today, we don’t see this lost love as often as we did in years gone by. This variety is without a doubt one of the most stunning white formal doubles ever introduced. Whether you are in Savannah, or Alabama, or a hundred different other locations, there are many lost loves just waiting for you to find them.
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