A winter flower in the South that always astonishes with its beauty and perfection in Daydreaming on the Porch

  • Jan. 20, 2024, 1:44 a.m.
  • |
  • Public

The great 19th century French novelist Balzac wrote, “When chilling winter shows his icy face,
[camellias] bloom for a world that vainly seeks delight.” But camellias provide that delight like no other flower here in the South because they bloom all winter.

And so it is that each year at this time I walk at the parks and gardens, as I did this past week, photographing a wide variety of camellias. I write rhapsodically about their sheer transcendent beauty. The sasanqua camellias bloomed in November and December, and now the japonica camellias are in bloom.

These flowers, with their exquisitely detailed petals, bestow brilliant and luminous color on an otherwise dreary and colorless landscape, devoid of most flowers in winter. How astonishing it is that these Southern flowers cover tall shrubs with dozens of pink, white and red blooms, even as I walk among them in freezing cold weather, bundled up in layers of winter clothing and a warm cap. It’s truly astonishing. Although I’ve marveled at these flowers for decades, it’s only since I’ve been frequently photographing them that I have truly begun to appreciate their beauty and complexity.

Camellias represent a spirit of depth, self-reflection and inner strength – qualities that are highly esteemed in Japanese culture where the earliest fossil records of their leaves have been found. They also symbolize love, loyalty and humility.

They were cultivated in the gardens of China for centuries before they were seen in Europe.

One of the most popular camellias in Victorian days, Camellia japonica “Pink Perfection” dates to the late 18th century and features extraordinarily beautiful, formal double, medium-sized flowers. According one description of these camellias, they are “perfectly formed, their rows packed with luminous overlapping petals of the palest shell pink.”

An interesting personal note on this camellia variety unfolds in the back garden of my late mother’s house in downtown Charleston. When she moved into this contemporary adaptation of a Charleston single house in 1995, it was a dream come true. She loved living there. Remarkably, the house is only a block and a half away from where her grandparents lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

My mother loved camellias, and had beautiful sasanquas and japonicas growing in her front garden. Two of her dear friends gave her a “Pink Perfection” to plant in the far corner if the back yard garden, and it grew to be a tall and beautiful specimen. Each winter it was the last of the camellias to bloom, so just about the time the japonicas and sasanquas were finished blooming, we saw with great joy the first Perfections. How those flowers could lift my spirits when I passed them as I headed for work. And, that is a great name for this camellia — they are about the most perfectly formed and symmetrical flower in all of Nature.

We sold the house after Mom passed away in 2020. The new owners have made a showcase of the house and gardens, and nothing remains of the gardens we enjoyed for 25 years. This greatly saddens me, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected. The “Pink Perfection” is gone, I’m sure, replaced by an addition to the house that was just completed. But I’ll always remember the end-of-winter flowers on that tall shrub that we called the “Anne and Dickie Camellia,” in memory and honor of Mom’s dear friends, who bestowed on her that gift of sublime beauty.

Pink Perfection Japonica Camellia:

Extensive camellia information from Wikipedia:

Selected camellias I’ve photographed over the past purple of days:


Hampton Park


Last updated January 20, 2024

Jinn January 20, 2024

They are so beautiful!

Oswego Jinn ⋅ January 20, 2024

They are indeed! 😊

Newzlady January 20, 2024

They are beautiful! The smaller blooms remind me of the flowering quince that is abundant here. Boss had a Sasanqua for a time. I think the bitter temps a couple years ago hurt it. Haven’t heard him say lately.

Oswego Newzlady ⋅ January 20, 2024

That’s what’s so special about camellias. There are so many varieties around here that it’s like having a dozen different flowers to enjoy!

music & dogs & wine January 21, 2024

That Pink Perfection one truly is PERFECT! Love it!

You must be logged in to comment. Please sign in or join Prosebox to leave a comment.