BY KATHY PICKENS
The Greenville Standard
“It’s all about the camellias.” This was how April Sherling described the luncheon she hosted in her home along with her mother, Daisy Norman and sister, Tara Dyson.
This was also the reaction of guests as they arrived to find that the already fabulous Sherling home was transformed into an indoor camellia garden with no less than two dozen of Nancy Idland’s camellia creations.
The event began as a birthday gathering for their mother but morphed into a celebration of camellias.
“With this year being a banner year for camellia blooms, we wanted our decorations to be over the top to inspire people to love camellias and see them in a new way,” said Sherling who grew up with the tradition of her grandmother’s camellia blooms surrounding her mother’s birthday cakes.
There were colorful wreaths on the front doors, sprays adorning the windows, and cascades framing the fireplace.
Towering sprays graced the entryway and also the kitchen island from where punch and smoked salmon appetizers were served.
Trumpet vases and rose bowls of camellias flanked the sideboard along with a menu of chicken salad, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, fruit in poppyseed dressing, and a tres leches cake.
There were smaller displays throughout the house in a multitude of glass, silver, crystal, and pewter containers including bowls, cylinders, pedestals, goblet vases, amphoras, and bud vases.
The dining table held a stunning arrangement featuring Mary Ann Hamilton’s crystal and silver epergne atop a mirror and flanked by a collection of crystal and silver, all overflowing with the bounty of our Camellia City.
The ladies did not realize that they had chosen Camellia Day (January 7) as the date for their event until reading the article in last week’s paper.
“It was really all serendipitous, the date we chose and the fact that this was such a great year for camellias,” said Sherling who is passionate about creating a resurgence of camellia love in Greenville.
The guests participated in a camellia quiz based on the article with the prize of a camellia seedling from long-time gardener and nursery owner Estelle Champion going to the winner Linda Stabler.
Greenville Arts Council director and accomplished florist Nancy Idland served as the floral designer for the event.
She said it was great fun riding around Greenville in search of the different varieties and deciding what arrangements should go where.
Idland also enjoyed the challenge of working with the blooms saying, “Camellias are not an easy flower to arrange, nor do they last long.” She enjoyed featuring them in new ways, rather than just floating them in bowls in traditional displays.
Another challenge was the weather which went from the 80’s to freezing right before the party. Island and Sherling diligently covered bushes with sheets to save the blooms.
Sherling said that with permissions they did some “community pruning” with most of the specimens coming from the family home of Katie Lane Sherling, her husband’s grandmother.
Many others came from her own yard which is filled with camellia plants, some of which were Christmas gifts from her sister.
Sherling hopes that people will get excited about camellias again and remember to add them to their own yards and give them as house-warming gifts.
Idland would also like to see more camellias in the Camellia City. She remembers attending camellia shows at Beeland Park where tables and tables of camellia blooms were displayed.
She hopes to see camellias flourish in all areas of Greenville, not just the downtown areas and older neighborhoods, and she believes events like this luncheon are just the things to inspire a renewed interest in and appreciation for our state flower and city symbol.