The ‘Winter Rose’ shows off its beauty for the Annual Camellia Festival
The Camellia, known as the “Winter Rose”, will have thousands of blossoms -- a sight to behold -- at Massee Lane Gardens at Fort Valley during the month of February. Home to the American Camellia Society headquarters, Massee Lane Gardens holds a Camellia Festival annually.
This year’s Festival events has something for all age groups, including camellia care classes, a painting class, a photography class, and a Kids’s Day, and capping off the month-long events will be the Middle Georgia Camellia Show.
Saturday, Feb. 2, the gardens and buildings are open free to the public. Special features are a free camellia corsage, a “make and take” overseen by florist Joette Jones of Montezuma, and a Wildlife Preservation demonstration by Sharon Wilhelm of the Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences at 1 p.m. in the auditorium. A food vendor, Gramp’s & Mimi’s Q-Shack will offer barbecue.
There is much to see in the gardens, from the old camellia trees, the millstones and concrete road markers placed there by David C. Strother, the man who donated his gardens to the American Camellia Society in 1968, to a large landscaped greenhouse, a Japanese Garden, an environmental garden and one of the largest collections of Boehm porcelain in the nation. Brick walkways guide you through the camellia gardens and then onward to the Abendroth Japanese Garden, where an authentic tea house overlooks the quiet pond where Koi fish swim slowly at your feet. You can also enjoy the Avera-Peterson Children’s Garden and the Scheibert Rose Garden. You can see wildlife while sitting in the Helen Teeter Garden or stroll around the lake and rest on the deck of the Dr. Dan and Muriel Nathan pavilion which overlooks the Brown & Hall Environmental Gardens.
The Annabelle Lundy Fetterman building houses an auditorium, the gift shop and a large gallery. The gallery has the Boehm porcelain collection and work by Cybis, Connoisseur, Bronn and others. The gift shop offers perfect gifts for gardeners and those who have a love for elegant decorative items.
On Monday, Feb. 4, a Camellia Care Workshop will be held in the auditorium at 2 p.m., with Tommy Alden of County Line Nursery talking about Camellia Companion Plants.
On Saturday, Feb. 9, a One Stroke Paint Class by artist Shirley Rainwater will get underway at 10 a.m. in the Gallery. She will show you how to paint a camellia using the one-stroke method. Cost is $35 each the fee includes all supplies needed. A Photography Class by photographer King Davis will be offered in the auditorium at 1 p.m. for beginners and intermediate level. Bring your own camera. The cost is a $5 Garden Admission only; the reservation deadline is Friday, Feb. 1. The registration deadline for both classes is Friday, Feb. 1; Call toll free at 1-877-422-6355 to reserve your place today.
Rainwater received her Level 2 Certification as an instructor from Dewberry University in Orlando, Fla. She was taught by Donna Dewberry, who invented the one-stroke technique. Rainwater has her own company, Art From the Heart, and teaches classes regularly at the Wellness Center in Macon, several retirement communities, and for special needs children at ARC in Macon.
“If you’ve never painted before, it’s fine to come to this one-stroke class. Even if you think you can’t paint, I encourage you to come. Five years ago, I couldn’t paint anything,” she said in an interview.
Several workshops on camellias and plants will be held during the month. These are free to the public. “I hope people will attend and take advantage of the experts’ knowledge,” Leisa Dortch, Gift Shop Manager and Special Events Coordinator, said.
On Monday, Feb. 11, another Camellia Care Workshop will be held in the auditorium at 11 a.m., featuring Advanced Planting Methods and Pruning by Mark Crawford of Loch Laurel Nursery. A second workshop, Camellia Oil, will be offered by Dr. John Ruter of the University of Georgia at 2 p.m.
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, rose lovers can enjoy two Rose Care Workshops in the auditorium. At 10 a.m. Rose Propagation will be discussed by William Khoury, American Camellia Society Horticulture Specialist, and at 2 p.m. Master Gardener Rosa Fobbs will talk about General Year Round Rose Care.
Saturday, Feb. 16, is Children’s Day, with free admission for children under 12. The Fort Valley Fire Department will give demonstrations, a Scavenger Hunt, a Cup Cake Walk, and Air Walks will be held. The Fire Department will have a food booth, and all proceeds go to MDA.
Monday, Feb. 18, brings more gardening workshops, with John Gamble giving a presentation on How to Prepare Your Camellia Blooms for a Show at 2 p.m. in the auditorium, and an Azalea Care Workshop at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. by Tom Johnson, Executive Director of Magnolia Plantation.
Unparalleled beauty will line the tables in the Gallery on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23 – 24, as the Middle Georgia Camellia Society presents it annual show. It is open to the public between 1 and 4:30 p.m. Anyone can enter a bloom in the show; bring your bloom to Massee Lane Gardens by 8 a.m. so that it can be prepared for the show. There will be plenty of people to assist you.
During the month of February, which is the best time to view the camellia blossoms, the gardens will be open every day, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. You can also purchase camellias to plant at the gardens.
The gardens are located on Georgia Highway 49 between Fort Valley and Marshallville. Exit 149 from I-75 at Byron to travel south on Georgia Highway 49 or leave I-75 at Exit 135 in Perry to follow Georgia Highway 127 to Marshallville. From Marshallville follow Georgia 49 north three miles to the gardens. The gardens are five miles south of Fort Valley.