“Will the camellias survive the rain?” was the nagging question on everyone’s mind in the days before the 76th Annual Camellia Show and Plant Sale Feb. 25 and 26, held indoors at the Santa Clara Community Recreation Center, 969 Kiely Blvd. Not to worry.
“We were pleasantly surprised that even with the difficult weather, we had more blooms this year than last,” said John Mendoza, III, show chairperson and President of the Camellia Society of Santa Clara County (CSSCC), which co-sponsors the show with the City of Santa Clara.
“We’re trying to spread the word about camellias,” said Mendoza. “We want to see this flower grown more, and we’re trying to promote growing a greater variety of them.”
Show co-chair Bill Allman said that an estimated 950 visitors turned out over the sunny weekend to view the 960 camellias and 73 photos of camellias competing for awards and trophies. The donated trophies were beautiful crystal and porcelain items such as bowls, wine glasses and vases, some given by CSSCC members or friends in memory of a loved one.
Twenty-four invited judges, plus 11 novice judges still in training, came from as far north as Sacramento and as far south as Fresno. Each camellia bloom is judged by a team of three.
The sweepstakes prize for receiving the most first place awards went to Mary and Don Bergamini with 81 blue ribbons. The sweepstakes runner-up, with 39 first place ribbons, was Donald Lesmeister.
It was the second year for the camellia photo contest, which was introduced to expand the show, and photo chairperson Barbara Gordon was pleased that the number of photo entries is growing, up from 64 entries in 2016.
CSSCC member Philippa Alves encouraged people who might want to grow camellias to join the society. “The way to learn about any specific plant is to join the club. There’s a society for any kind of flower,” she said. Yearly CSSCC membership is just $15 for individuals and $25 for families.
“We just purchased a camellia to add to our home,” said Santa Clara resident Claudia Freitas, attending the show with her husband, Tom Freitas. “Now we have an excited interest in camellias. We’re even pondering joining the Camellia Society. We need more beauty in our world.”
For CSSCC information, call Mendoza at (408) 203-0011. The Camellia Society meets at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month, September through May, at the historic Headen Inman House, 1509 Warburton Ave., behind Santa Clara’s Triton Museum of Art. Caroline Beverstock will talk about heritage camellias at the March 15 meeting. Nonmembers are always welcome.
“The show is really beautiful,” said first-time visitor Hui Wang, pushing her 16-month-old son and three-year-old daughter in a stroller for two. “You can see so many kinds of camellias. My daughter now knows they come in so many colors and sizes.”