Cooler weather blossoms in Camellia City

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 1999

Area resident Paul Langford inspects the progress of a Mary Taylor variety of Camellia growing in on of the many greenhouses on his property off Highway 185 South in Greenville. In all, Langford has some 150 to 200 varieties of Camellias at his home. He recently won best in show at the Pensacola Camellia Society show with a locally grown Betty Sheffield Supreme.

Photo by Derek Brown

As cooler weather once again envelopes the Camellia City, dots of red, pink and white begin to pop up all over the landscape. And, with Camellia bushes in almost everyone's yard in town, Greenville's holiday season will be decorated with a splash of color from Mother Nature.

Greenville resident Paul Langford has been growing Camellias for most of his 79 years. He said he became interested in the flowering bush as a child and the excitement has grown from there.

"We had a large Camellia Bush at the corner of the porch where I grew up," Langford said. "That is where I learned to climb trees. I also learned that I could root these plants and I've been doing it ever since."

Langford is active in area Camellia societies, and travels to shows each year to let other enthusiasts see the bounty of the Camellia City.

This year Langford won best in show at the Pensacola Camellia Society's show with a Betty Sheffield Supreme that he says was in competition with more than 3,000 blossoms.

The flower he grew on a plant next to his daughter's house had perfect markings and was the best example of that or any breed at the competition.

"I didn't even know I had won at first until everybody started shaking my hand and congratulating me," he said. "I have been a judge for many years down there and have had best in variety for the last three years. But, this year it took the whole show."

On Langford's property, just off 185 South in Greenville, he has several greenhouses where he roots, grafts and grows 150 to 200 different varieties of Camellias. He said the secret to growing good Camellias is knowing the right technique.

"You've got to have the right type of soil," he said. "Plus, you have to have a lot of patience, a lot of know-how, and what to spray them with and when."

Langford said he has lost plants to disease in the past, but careful attention to strong root systems allows for quick growing of beautiful blossoms.

"The main thing is to get the root systems established," he said. "Then you can graft whatever kind of blossoms you want and have blooms in two years."

Langford said his hobby is self-taught, but he has become well respected in the area for his knowledge of the Camellia plant and its different varieties.

He said the blooming season of most Camellia varieties will extend through the winter and stop sometime in the early spring.