Ever since I was old enough to walk, I have been aware of camellias. I was raised to love and appreciate camellias. Because of that upbringing, I have been wandering the old camellia gardens in search of these incredible lost loves. You have probably heard it said that you can’t teach and old dog new tricks, but I recently had a watershed moment that made me stop and think about camellias differently than I ever did before. Recently, it came to my attention that one of my favorite newer camellias had been renamed by a larger nursery distributor and reintroduced under a new name in America. I am very happy to see this variety grown and distributed to a larger audience, but renaming it after it had already been registered? I just didn’t think that this was right, and I was highly upset about it. While discussing this issue with some camellia friends, one of those friends pointed out to me that this practice has been going on for centuries. You would think that I would have realized this a lot sooner, but it finally hit home. We are not just in search of lost loves. We are in search of lost names and identities that have been stolen by time and circumstances! If I am going to stand up against a modern-day change in name to a camellia that I hold near and dear, then I must also stand up for all the older camellias and give them back their real names whenever possible. So, my journey to become a noble purist with regards to camellia nomenclature begins today. I hope that you will join me in restoring the true names to our camellias along with standing up against this practice of renaming and reintroducing already established camellia varieties. It is misleading and confusing to the gardening public!
Camellia japonica ‘Otome-Tsubaki’ was introduced in Japan around 1829. Also called ‘Usu-Otome’ and ‘Frau Minna Seidel’, this variety was introduced in America in 1875 in Sacramento, California. It remains one of the most popular camellias anywhere, but you are more familiar with it being called ‘Pink Perfection’. It is going to take a little time to get used to calling it ‘Otome-Tsubaki’, but I intend on calling it by its real name going forward!
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