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Celebrating the camellia#039;s beauty; past and present

A bevy of gorgeous blooms from gardens throughout Butler County and beyond greeted visitors to the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society's (BCHS) Camellia Show on Sunday afternoon, January 27 at Greenville's City Hall.

An estimated 100-plus entries in red, pink, white and variegated hues were on display in the building's front lobby while more blooms from the gardens of Paul Langford, Barbara Middleton, Beeland Park and historic Pioneer and Magnolia Cemeteries were on exhibit in the meeting room.

Visitors from as far away as Mobile and out-of-town exhibitors from Andalusia, Elberta, Fort Deposit and the Crenshaw County area were present for the event.

The BCHS had an intriguing display of Greenville Advocate press clippings from past city flower shows, inaugural parade entries, festivals and plantings featuring the beautiful flower. Local painters and garden enthusiasts Shirley Roberson, Mary Croley and Juanita Carter also exhibited their artistic interpretations of local camellia varieties.

While judges Ed Jernigan, Shirley Roberson and Nancy Idland made their winning selections, BCHS President Barbara Middleton gave an informative presentation on the local history of both the cultivated and wild camellia in Butler County to the standing-room-only crowd assembled for the show.

At the close of the program, winners were announced in three categories: single bloom, triple bloom and floral arrangements. Arrangement winners were first place, Emma Jean Roberson; second place, Jo Weitman and third place, Juanita Carter.

Winners in the single bloom category were first place, Juanita Carter; second place, (Miss Lillian') Ed Jernigan and third place, (Purple Dawn') Nonnie Hardin.

In the triple bloom category the winners were first place, Sue Johnson; second place, Barbara Middleton and third place, (Pink Perfection') Shirley Roberson.

Refreshments were served following the announcement of the winning blooms and exhibitors and visitors mingled to share growing tips and admire the beauty of the displays.

Middleton expressed pleasure at the turnout for the event and excitement about the future of the camellia in Greenville. "Our horticultural department in Greenville is in the process of grafting and propagating many of our old camellia plants so that new generations of families and businesses here can enjoy the beauty of these flowers," Middleton explained.

Though it has been some 15 years since a large-scale camellia show was held in the Camellia City, Middleton and her fellow BCHS members have high hopes the tide will turn in 2002.

"We have two garden clubs currently active in Greenville the Pride of Greenville Club with about 25 members and the Sasanqua Club with 40 to 50 members. There are more and more young people expressing interest in gardening in our area…once camellia shows were a regular part of our city calendar and there's no reason why they shouldn't be once again.

"We are discussing organizing a camellia festival in the [Confederate] park with art exhibits and other activities. Greenville once drew 5,000 people for one of its camellia shows-we could do it again," Middleton emphasized.

BCHS Vice-President Annie Crenshaw recalled creating the artwork for a brochure promoting a historic home and garden tour of Greenville in the fall of 1978. "That was a great event…the flowers were absolutely beautiful and the homes were all wonderfully decorated for the occasion," Crenshaw recalled, adding with a smile, "It would be great to make a similar tour an annual event again in the Camellia City."