BY KATHY PICKENS
The Greenville Standard
The Greenville Camellia Society (GCS) met on Nov. 8, at Beeland Park Community Center.
Lead hostess Becky Hickman and her committee of Susan Andrews, Carol Black, Kayla Lee, Elizabeth Matthews, and Danan Whiddon laid out a cornucopia of refreshments.
After a wonderful time of fellowship and a bit of business, GCS president Jan Newton presented the program, revealing the secret to magnificent camellia blooms and the history behind its discovery.
“Camellias are beginning to grace the town,” said Newton. “We are seeing mostly sasanquas flowering, as these and sinensis camellias are the early bloomers.
Later, japonicas, reticulatas, and hybrids will bloom. A combination of these species treats Butler County citizens and visitors to a beautiful camellia show from late fall to early spring.
Europeans called this flower “the winter rose.”
Locally, sasanquas can be enjoyed right now at Beeland Park, in many yards, and all around town.
The white sasanquas in the triangle intersection of Fort Dale and College streets are putting on a charming show of their own.
According to county horticulturist Jennifer Stringer, these bushes are Camellia sasanqua ‘Cool Breeze’.
In 1937 in Japan, a fungus called gibberellin was discovered to be causing abnormal growth in rice plants.
From this fungus the Japanese derived a solution called gibberellic acid (GA3).
Gibberellic acid, pronounced with a soft g, was introduced to the United States in 1947 and became very popular among camellia growers and propagators.
The Greenville Men’s Camellia Society became avid users of this hormone. Greenville’s own Paul Langford had a recipe for gibberellic acid that he sold to local camellia competitors.
GA3 was packaged in small bottles, and competitors would apply small droplets to the buds of a camellia bush six weeks prior to competition to produce extra-large blooms.
Gibberellic acid can also be used on other plants. Newton herself has applied GA3 to the bases and trunks of her outside plants and on the leaves of her house plants.
She is a believer in GA3 and commented, “I will continue to pamper my plants every 40 days with the miracle formula.”
She added that GA3 can be purchased premade or mixed yourself. Newton demonstrated mixing for the group and gifted each with a two-ounce bottle of GA3.
The meeting concluded with a “field trip” outside to the Beeland Park Camellia Gardens where the ladies helped “gib” several buds.
Since each bottle can “gib” 350 plants, the members had plenty to take home to try in their own gardens.
The GCS continues to promote their Camellia Show on Jan. 27-28, 2024, at Beeland Park.