Camellias Brighten the Shortest Winter Days
If you’re someone who would prefer for winter to fly by as quickly as possible, you might find February to be a difficult month – despite the relatively mild winter weather we experience here in Charleston and Point Hope. Never fear! One of the great things about Lowcountry winters is that there’s virtually always something in bloom in the landscape. And in February, the winter-blooming Camellia shrubs that fill gardens throughout the Lowcountry explode with color.
Camellias have been grown for over 3,000 years, primarily in East Asia. They were introduced to the Lowcountry by André Michaux, a botanist for King Louis XVI of France who came to Charleston and established an experimental botanical garden where it is believed he first planted Camellias in the region.
Camellias come in six primary forms based on how their petals are arranged, and their colors range from white to a variety of shades of pinks and reds. In all, there are approximately 250 species of Camellias today, with the most popular being the C. Japonica and the C. Sasanqua. Beyond these popular varieties, there are several cultivars that originated in the Lowcountry, including “Carolina Girl” (which was created in 1961) and “Reine des Fleurs,” one of Michaux’s originals.
For a real treat, February is the time to visit local gardens and historic plantations to experience these beauties in full bloom. Check out Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, which has the largest collection of Camellias in Charleston (more than 20,000!), some of which date back to the 1840s. Middleton Place Plantation is also well worth a visit. Michaux presented the Middleton family with Camellia plants for their gardens in 1786, and today the property’s collection totals more than 4,000 Camellias.
If you’ve got the winter blues, a visit to one of these Charleston destinations in February is sure to brighten your day!