Local camellia growers can showcase their blooms when the National Camellia Show is held on Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Southern Hotel, 428 E. Boston St., in downtown Covington.
Judging is held in the morning, then the public is invited to view more than a thousand blossoms from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Northshore Camellia Club’s 10th annual camellia show. Because the local club will host the 2018 American Camellia Society convention from Jan. 5-8 in Covington, this becomes the society’s national show.
“Camellias are called the queen of the winter,” said Hunter Charbonnet, president of the Northshore Camellia Club. They grow throughout St. Tammany in what he calls the “heart of winter,” from the end of November through the end of February.
Camellia competition is a process that begins with growers arriving as early as 7 a.m. to begin “tagging their flowers and putting them in the right category,” he said. Participants are asked to place flowers beginning at 8 a.m., and judging occurs between 10:30 a.m. and noon.
Novices compete in their own category and are not required to be members. Northshore club members will help them fill out tags and present their blooms. They are ranked as red, white, pink and striped, he said.
Anyone interested is encouraged to come early to have their blooms ready for judging by 10 a.m. It’s a chance to enjoy the competition and learn more about camellias, their care and propagation.
“Club members can also help them identify their type of camellia so they can go home and tag them,” he said.
Charbonnet said judges look for exceptional blooms. This year’s judges will be the American Camellia Society board of directors. Jim Campbell, of Covington, is past ACS president and will serve as judge chairman. Charbonnet is show chairman, and his wife, Meg, is convention chairwoman.
The flowers are categorized on tables and judging teams look for first-, second- and third-place blooms. First-place winners move to the head table for final judging by all the judges.
The public is then invited to “see how every flower on every table was graded,” he said.
Awards given include best small, medium and large japonica, sasanqua, reticula and non-reticula hybrid, as well as seedlings, novice and other specialty awards. Gold and silver sweepstakes awards are given to the growers who have the most first-place blooms, he said.
There is also a camellia sale in front of the hotel beginning at 9 a.m. A raffle will be held of camellias donated by regional growers to support the club.
Following the show, Ellen Vinson, a member of the Pensacola Club who is also a jazz singer, will perform, accompanied by piano, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Southern Hotel lounge.
The convention has drawn more than 80 registered participants from throughout the country, with many more expected to attend from the Gulf coast, New Orleans and north shore area. Activities include garden visits to Hody Wilson Camellia Garden at the LSU Ag Center in Hammond, Longue Vue Gardens and the New Orleans Botanical Gardens.
Longtime camellia grower and supporter C. Allen Favrot, of Covington, will be honored at the convention.
“He had been a big contributor to the ACS,” Charbonnet said. “Favrot had a nice collection in Covington” until Hurricane Katrina, and has two flowers named for him and his daughter. Now in his 80s, he will be honored at the president’s dinner on Monday evening, at the conclusion of the convention.
The Northshore Camellia Club meets at 3 p.m. every third Sunday of the month from September through April. Activities include speakers, field trips and interaction with others growers. Annual membership dues are $15 a year, or $20 for a family.
Members come “to share the beauty and passion” of camellia growing, and can learn important growing tips.
“It’s a way to meet a lot of good people, get good ideas, and expose everybody to the beauty camellias can bring to the garden.”