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Camellias and Birthday Cake at 75th Annual Camellia Show

Camellias and Birthday Cake at 75th Annual Camellia Show

More than 900 individual camellias filled the Santa Clara Community Recreation Center February 20 and 21 for the 75th Annual Camellia Show co-sponsored by the Santa Clara County Camellia Society (SCCCS) and the city of Santa Clara. John Mendoza III, society president for more than 30 years and show chairperson, treated visitors on Saturday to a 75th birthday cake decorated with frosting camellias.

“This is a special time. We’ve been trying to get people interested in camellias for 75 years now, and there seems to be more interest each year,” says Mendoza, whose father was a charter member of the SCCCS in 1940 and passed his love of camellias on to his son.

Mendoza, in turn, is passing his interest on to his family. His granddaughters, Rachel and Natalie Uribe, distributed show programs Saturday.


“I love the way camellias look and the colors and the names of them–like Tama Peacock and N. Pearl,” says Rachel, 9, who, after mulling over a few kinds of flowers, decided that the camellia is her favorite.

“It’s really cool that we always get to go here and have fun and see all the beautiful camellias because of our grandpa,” says Natalie, 11, who confessed to favoring the tulip.

Santa Clara resident Chin Seah was a first time show attendee.

“The camellias are so beautiful. I like the variegated ones. You don’t get that in roses. I just think they’re gorgeous!” says Seah, who got some advice from Mendoza on how to grow them.

“Most people kill them with kindness–too much water,” says Mendoza. “Camellias do well in drought.”

“They’re fun to grow. My late wife was fascinated with camellias, and I carry on for her,” says Bill Allman, show co-chair.

The show judges (more than 30) said that the weather this year–back and forth between drought, heat waves and cold turns–affected the camellias, which arrived in Santa Clara from all over northern California.

“They’re of beautiful quality despite the weather,” says Mendoza. “These you see today, you won’t see at your local nursery.”

“The hard part of judging is when the flower is in gorgeous form but the color is off or it’s not as fresh as it needs to be to win,” says judge Carol Schanz, a Sacramento resident.

Sunnyvale resident Keiko Remp, her daughter Barbara Burbach and granddaughter Miya Burbach, were also first-time show attendees.

“I love a good camellia, but I didn’t know there were so many different kinds. Some are miniature and some are huge,” says Remp, whose father grew camellias in Japan.

2016 Top Show Trophy Winners: Mr. & Mrs. Don Lesmeister took four top prizes–Sweepstakes first place, Best of Show, Best Blossom and Best Collection. Mr. & Mrs. Helmuth Wildemann took sweepstakes second place, and Mr. & Mrs. Art Gonos came in sixth with their Best Collection.

A camellia photo contest, new to the show this year, drew 65 entries. Julie Vierro from West Sacrament took the top three photo awards.

For SCCCS information, call Mendoza at (408) 203-0011. The next meeting, open to all, is March 16, 7 p.m., at the Jamison Brown House behind Santa Clara’s Triton Museum of Art. Nancy Russell will show slides from her trip to China, where the camellia originated.


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