For almost 200 years, southern women practiced the honored southern tradition of selecting their camellias in February. The lovely symmetry and glowing, lit-from-within perfection of the blooms came to symbolize the classic southern beauty. Nurseries would present well-considered selections to the men of the home. Then the selections were made by the lady of the house, and the remainders were sent back. At no time did the nurserymen and the lady of the house meet.
The selections were chosen with tremendous care. The matriarch would base her decisions on which blooms best complemented her complexion and decorating color scheme. This decidedly private ritual holds with the lore of the Southern Camellia. The gentle beauty of the camellia flower has long been symbolic of Southern Womanhood. The quiet sweetness of the bloom stands in delicate contrast to the sturdy, deep shine of the leaves.
The 1800's brought the industrial revolution to the north in full force, and with it came the first great wave of consumer advertising. Cosmetic companies and advertisers worked to end makeup's bad reputation. Even though makeup began to gain popularity among all classes of northern society, the southern woman did not give in.
The pride of southern womanhood was a lovely complexion. No makeup would adorn the sweet faces of the south. Southern ladies took considerable pride in caring for and maintaining fresh complexions in spite of the relentless southern sun. This is my favorite southern tradition. It takes great discipline to maintain that famous southern complexion.
Choosing Your Camellia
Camellias perform best in acid soil and are perfect companions to our lovely tall pine trees. Camellias are sold as container plants, too. Do take the opportunity to choose the shape and color of your blooms to complement you. The pretty cuttings can decorate your home, perfume the air, and leave a dear reminder of the gentle lady of the house to all who pass .
Once your choice is secure, choose a fitting spot in your garden and dig a hole deeper than and twice the width of the root ball. When you've covered about half of the root-ball, fill hole with water and wait for it to soak in. Fill the rest of the hole with shallow back-fill. Apply thick mulch and water again.
In late February fertilize with camellia food. Remember that camellias need lots of water and thick mulch.