IRRG – Camellia Garden

Apr 29, 2024 | Whats On

There aren’t just Rhododendrons in the Garden:

 

In 1980 the Illawarra Branch of the Australian Camellia Research Society approached the  president of the Rhododendron Park in Mt Pleasant about acquiring part of the park to establish a camellia garden therein. The project was instigated by the Camellia Society to attract new members and to keep the remaining members interested.

In April 1980 work began. Members of both societies worked together to clear the undergrowth and plan and plant out the Camellia Garden you see today. Harold Delaforce proved to be the driving force and took over as manager of the project.

In 1990s plantings of 300 camellias (258 cultivars) had occurred with blooms from the garden displayed at the annual camellia show. Rumour has it that blooms from the gardens won so many awards over the years that we were banned from entering our blooms in future competitions.

At the entrance to the gardens is a stone with a plaque recognising the contribution of Harold Delaforce to the gardens. In 1994 at the unveiling of the plaque a Camellia,  C. ‘Dr Clifford Parks’ was planted in the first garden bed.

irrg camellia garden 05Today the Camellia Garden continues to be maintained by members of the Illawarra Camellia Society and volunteers at the Illawarra Rhododendron and Rainforest Gardens.

Camellia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae.  Today there are more than 220 known species with over 26,000 cultivars of the ornamental C. japonicaC. sasanqua and their hybrids. This makes identifying Camellias a task for the experts and we have the Illawarra Camellia Society experts slowly identifying and naming the plants when in flower in our garden. Our Camellias have been donated over the time and are a mixture of hybrids and cultivars including C.sinensis.

 

irrg camellia garden 01Camellias, however are not only prized for their flowers, the leaf of the Camellia sinensis plant is used all over the world to produce tea.  These camellias are always white-flowered.

White teayellow teagreen teaoolongdark tea (which includes pu-erh tea) and black tea are all harvested from one of two major varieties grown today, C. sinensis var. sinensis and C. s. var. assamica,  but are processed differently to attain varying levels of oxidation with black tea being the most oxidized and green being the least.

Camellias were first imported into Australia in 1826 from England but the species originated from Japan and China. In the early years of Australia, the Camellia became a favourite bush to plant about the home and in time there were many gardens with extensive plantings, the most common grown in cultivation are the small leafed Camellia sasanqua  (flowering first) and the large leafed Camellia japonica.  Both species grown for the usually large and conspicuous flower displays in a variety of white, through  pink shades  to red.  Truly yellow flowers are found only in South China and Vietnam.

Camellias are hardy slow growing evergreen shrubs or small trees up to 20 m flowering heavily from autumn through to spring. The best display of camellias can be seen during the winter months. Camellias can be grown as specimen trees and placed in focal points in the garden, while others are more suitable to be grown as standards and others such as the Sasanqua are suitable for hedges or espalier or shrubbery, while there are also others that are slow growing and can be used as a ground cover.

Camellias were first imported into Australia in 1826 from England but the species originated from Japan and China. In the early years of Australia, the Camellia became a favourite bush to plant about the home and in time there were many gardens with extensive plantings, the most common grown in cultivation are the small leafed Camellia sasanqua  (flowering first) and the large leafed Camellia japonica.  Both species grown for the usually large and conspicuous flower displays in a variety of white, through  pink shades  to red.  Truly yellow flowers are found only in South China and Vietnam.

Camellias are hardy slow growing evergreen shrubs or small trees up to 20 m flowering heavily from autumn through to spring. The best display of camellias can be seen during the winter months. Camellias can be grown as specimen trees and placed in focal points in the garden, while others are more suitable to be grown as standards and others such as the Sasanqua are suitable for hedges or espalier or shrubbery, while there are also others that are slow growing and can be used as a ground cover.

irrg camellia garden 07
irrg camellia garden 02
irrg camellia garden 05

Harlod Delaforce with 2 sisters Alice and Wilga who were founders of the Illawarra Camellia Society.