Columnists : Joan Swenson

Wednesday, Mar 04 2009 01:38 PM

Joan Swenson: Camellia show blooms to life

A Bakersfield springtime tradition, the Kern County Camellia Society’s annual show, is this weekend at East Hills Mall.

You may enter your most perfect flowers in the show, which draws camellia competitors from all around the state. Only bring flowers that are free of bruises and spots. To prep your plants and flowers now, clip away foliage that’s likely to knock into potential show entry flowers. The week before a camellia show we often get blustery weather and leaves and branches that hit flowers will bruise them.

Cutting flowers a day or more before the competition and refrigerating them, with stems in water, is a good option.

The show will also include flower arrangements using camellias in Oriental, line or mass design.

To enter the show, arrive early. Flowers may be placed in the competition between 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Saturday, entering the mall through the doors by the United Artists Theater. Judging will follow.

The show will be open for viewing from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

GO AND DO

WHAT: Kern County Camellia Society’s annual show

WHEN: Open for viewing from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: East Hills Mall, 3100 Mall View Road. The show is near the movie theater entrance.

DO'S AND DON'TS FOR GROWING CAMELLIAS

Do:

Plant in filtered sun or partial shade.

Plant in holes at least two times wider and no deeper than the root ball.

Plant in slightly acid, sandy or loamy soil. The use of a good azalea/rhododendron planting mix will help create a favorable environment. You can also add dolomitic limestone (about 2 tablespoons per cubic foot of this mix) to raise the PH level of the soil to approximately 6. 

Plant the camellia high.  Camellias, though they like damp growing conditions, do not like to get their feet (roots) wet.

Provide soil with good drainage. The above mentioned “store-bought” soil will help, or you can put together your own mix of 15-25 percent coarse, sharp sand, mixed with 75-85 percent fine pine bark mulch. Camellias like a few pine bark nuggets added to the mix as well. The roots will attach themselves to the pine bark because of the air the bark holds.

Use a good time release fertilizer, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10. Apply it lightly. One level tablespoon per foot of plant height applied in March, May and July is usually sufficient. Spread the fertilizer evenly on the soil beneath the plant and extend it several inches beyond the drip line.

Water in the fertilizer to increase its distribution into the soil. And if you want to add a little “oomph” to your plant, add a little organic fertilizer such as cottonseed meal or Milorganite.

Don’t:

Use peat moss or “landscape mix” with camellias. These fill pores in the soil and clog it, denying needed air to the roots and thereby drowning the plant.

Overwater. More camellias are killed through excessive watering than by any pest or disease. Water thoroughly, slowly, and on a regular basis, but don’t drown the plant. When you water, the soil should be moist to a depth of 14 to 18 inches.  Water when the soil is dry to the touch, 2 to 3 inches deep.

Source: Bakersfield Camellia Society president Ben McMahan

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