You don't have to be Coco Chanel to find something mesmerizing about camellias.
It was the French fashion designer's favorite flower, one she loved as much for its simplicity as its grace, reasons the camellia became one her key design elements.
Sunday, the second day of the 66th annual Kern County Camellia Show at the Bakersfield Racquet Club, allowed devotees the chance to wander among the more than 1,000 blooms on display and enjoy an abundance of delicate and fragile beauty.
"A lot of people associate camellias with their grandmother's garden but it's not," said Susan Stull, president of the Camellia Society of Kern County, and one of the judges for the two-day affair, an official show of the American Camellia Society.
"It has a beauty all its own. My dad says you're never too young or too old to enjoy camellias."
Stull and her family should know, as they are among Bakersfield's camellia royalty, having been active with the flower in gardens and shows for nearly half a century. In fact, her father, Tom, and sister, Libbie, won first place in the "Best Single Bloom" for their Marie Bracey variety in the category of large to very large Japonica, one of the most widely grown of the estimated 100 to 250 species of camellia.
But for sheer dominance locally, no one recently has been able to touch Marvin and Virginia Belcher. They are to Bakersfield camillias what UCLA was to college basketball in the 1960s and 70s. At this year's show alone the couple won six of the 18 categories.
Winners of each category took home crystal pitchers or bowls. Because the Belchers have won so many categories over the years, they give their children first pick of the crystal and then donate the rest back to the Camellia Society.
At regional shows during the past several weeks, the Belchers won more than 30 categories.
"I like the camellia because of its inherent beauty," Marv Belcher said. "It blooms at a time when everything else is dead. It has so many varieties, shapes and colors."
His favorite variety, he said, was "Happy Harlequin." His wife gently corrected him: "Lady Laura," she said, because one of their granddaughters is named Laura.
Belcher then divulged his prime motivation for growing camellias: "the competitive spirit."
His twin brother Mel lives in southern California and also grows camellias. The shows provide bragging rights.
Among the category winners at this year's Kern County Camellia Show were:
*Walter Stiern Memorial Award/Single Bloom/Novice (variety: Spring Formal): Dave Domohowski
*Best Single Bloom/Large, Very Large Japonica (variety: Marie Bracey): Tom, Libbie Stull
*Best Single Bloom/Medium Japonica (variety: Black Magic): Stephenie Haberfelde
*Best Single Bloom/Small Japonica (variety: Red Hots): Harriet Simonsen
*Best Single Bloom/Miniature Japonica (variety: Man Size): Marvin, Virginia Belcher
*Best Tray of 3/Large, Very Large Japonica (variety: Royal Velvet): Belchers
*Best Tray of 3/Medium Japonica (variety: Herme): Haberfelde
*Best Tray of 3/Small Japonica (variety: Hishi-Karaito): Belchers
*Best Tray of 3/Reticulata/Reticulata Hybrid (variety: Frank Houser): Belchers
*Best Single Bloom/Non-Reticulata Hybrid (variety: Hot Stuff): Jane Brady
*Best Tray of 3/Non-Reticulata Hybrid (variety: Honeymoon): Belchers
*Best Treated Single Bloom (variety: Bravo): Belchers
*Best Single Bloom Old Timers (variety: Covina): Pam Gilbraith
*Best Floral Design, Designers Choice: Richard Amaya
*Best Floral Design, Oriental Design: Amaya