Organizers look to revive Camellia Society

Published 4:34 pm Friday, April 1, 2011

Nearly 63 years ago, a group of gardening enthusiasts from across the state gathered in Greenville to organize the Alabama Camellia Society.

Next Monday, April 4, local organizers hope an organizational meeting will begin a revival of interest in the flower that gave Greenville its beloved nickname.

Their goal: creating a renewed Camellia Society in the city.

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And it’s definitely not just for the ladies.

“Greenville once had a very, very active group of men who had their own club, the Men’s Camellia Society. They were the ones who organized the big camellia shows, with thousands of people coming to our town for those events,” said local camellia enthusiast and artist, Shirley Roberson, who is helping organize Monday’s meeting. “Of course, we also had several ladies’ garden clubs as well that were very supportive of camellias in our area.”

Greenville physician Dr. A.A. Stabler was chosen as the chair of the executive committee for the new state society in November 1948, geared to help promote Alabama as a true camellia state.

The camellia was made the state flower of Alabama in 1959, replacing the goldenrod — a change largely attributed to local legislator Lamont Glass’s efforts in the Statehouse. Twenty years earlier, Greenville had adopted the nickname “The Camellia City” after a vigorous campaign by Greenville Advocate editor, J. Glenn Stanley, who regularly promoted the blossoms in the newspaper.

Now, says Roberson, it is time for Greenvillians to renew their interest and enthusiasm for all things camellia.

The revitalization meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Greenville-Butler County Public Library and anyone interested in growing and promoting camellias is encouraged to attend, Roberson says.