Check out why we#039;re the Camellia City#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 2, 2002

It's been said that Georgia has its peaches and Florida, its oranges. In Birmingham you'll find lovely daffodils and Holland (both the country and the city in Michigan) are known for their gorgeous tulips.

But the city of Greenville is pretty famous, too-we're not only the best small town in America, we are also the rightfully named "Camellia City."

Sure, there are other places dubbed the Camellia City

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Sacramento and Pensacola, to name a couple

but you've got one right here to enjoy.

If you haven't figured out why it's called that just yet, put on your specs' and take a drive around this fair city.

If you don't think you know where to look, call up Mrs. Barbara Middleton at Cash and Carry and she'll be happy to supply you with one of the Historical Society's newly compiled Camellia Trails' so you can drive and view hundreds of camellia plants, old and new, in every variety under the sun.

I think you'll be pretty impressed.

In many parts of our land January is a rather bleak and dismal month weather-wise.

Trees are bare, the grass is brown, nothing is green (except for the blessed evergreens).

Snow is a welcomed sight since its pristine blanket covers the unrelentingly barrenness of the landscape.

Not so here in south Alabama.

Our temperate climate allows little winter miracles to happen.

And those of us whose thumbs are more or less brown in hue can still appreciate the work of those who are gifted with growing things.

Such an occasion took place this past weekend at City Hall when the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society mounted a camellia show at Greenville's City Hall.

I was amazed at the absolute beauty, delicacy and exquisite nature of these blooms viewed up close

a marvelous creation only God could manage. It was easy to understand how local gardening enthusiasts and artists alike fall in love with the camellia.

Back in my high school days, I went and helped hostess one such event at Beeland Park.

I can recall the throngs of people and the amazing number of camellia blooms on exhibit some 25 years later.

The camellia was truly a' Big Thing' in the city that treasured them.

Such camellia shows were once standard fare in the Camellia City. As many as 1,500 entries could be found at some of these shows with thousands of visitors and exhibitors in attendance.

It was certainly great and positive publicity for the Camellia City.

Many Advocate articles and photos demonstrated the beauty and popularity of the lovely flower throughout the decades. (What a shame there was no color photography in newspapers to more adequately reproduce their loveliness.)

It was, in fact, Advocate Publisher

(and camellia lover) J. Glenn Stanley who in 1938 gave the city its nickname as "The Camellia City."

He encouraged every home in the city to plant at least one of these plants in their yards.

Many did, along with numerous city buildings, local businesses, schools, parks, cemeteries…thousands of camellias throughout the Camellia City.

For whatever reason, the camellia shows died out in Greenville in the mid-1980s.

The BCHS, Greenville's two active garden clubs, the Sasanqua, the Pride of Greenville and Greenville's Main Street all believe it is time to return to a glorious tradition of Greenville's past-and perhaps start some new traditions.