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Zooming in on the beauty of camellias

Special to the Star

Second vice-president Jill Bebee envisions that the Port St. Joe Garden Club will be returning to meetings held in person in the foreseeable future. 

However, that time is months away and, as a result, the membership will continue to convene and host guest speakers via Zoom sessions.

Garden club member Delores Windolf preserving camellias in wax.
A display of waxed camellias

Randolph Maphis, president of the Atlantic Coast Camellia Society, delivered an engaging presentation at the club's January meeting. He mentioned that camellias were imported by wealthy men into the United States from their native habitats in China and Japan.

To showcase their extravagant purchases, collectors of these plants established societies that strictly prohibited women from their ranks.  It wasn't until 1998 that the Tallahassee Camellia Society installed a woman as president.

Mr. Maphis shared tips regarding the cultivation of camellias in home gardens.  He also divulged insider information about a meticulous and tedious technique called gibbing that greatly enhances the size of blooms utilizing naturally occurring plant hormones.

For the homeowner who desires flowers in their yard year around, these winter performers meet the bill.  Camellias are relatively easy to grow, do well in Gulf County, and exhibit a riot of red, white, and pink during the cooler season.

This month, a limited number of masked members gathered in person for the evening session and tried their hand at quickly dipping fresh camellia blossoms first into warm, melted paraffin and then into an ice cold water bath.  The result is an exquisitely preserved specimen that will stay fresh for two weeks or more.

The garden club meets at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET on the second Thursday of each month with the exceptions of July and August.

For information about the PSJ Garden Club, please visit its Facebook page, email psjgardenclub@gmail.com, or call president Sarah Darden at (229) 942-1414.

The home of the garden club, located at 216 Eighth Street, is listed on the United States Department of the Interior's Register of Historic Places and is available for rentals.  The venue is perfect for family reunions, showers, and receptions.  Please contact rental coordinator Sue Meyer at (513) 504-1679 for more details.