Virginia Camellia Society (VCS) board members Bob Ward, Ed Minor and Eric Hillerman collected 28 camellia seedlings on April 14, 2003 at the McDonald homestead on Queen Street, Hampton VA. Ken McDonald Jr. gave encouragement to rescue seedlings from the properties pending development. The VCS members spent several hours of enjoyable hunting and digging in the overgrown property. Amazingly, many of the camellias are the size of small trees giving shade from the day's heat. Some camellias and azaleas were still in bloom. The fun was tempered by the abundance of poison ivy in the underbrush. Many of the camellias that line the property were planted from 1945 to 1949 by Kenneth McDonald Sr. (Le-Mac Nursery founder) and some may have been planted later by Le-Mac Nursery manager Grayson Freeman who lived in the house from 1949 to 1970. Le-Mac was one of the early nurseries in Hampton Roads along with Coleman, Winn, and Greenbrier Nursery. The early Le-Mac Nursery introduced hardy and semi-hardy azaleas and rhododendrons for this area, but that's another story. The big freezes of 1979-82 killed back to the roots many Hampton Roads ornamental plants so some of the surviving camellias may be common rootstock. According to Ken McDonald Jr., the Sasanquas rebounded best and today, twenty odd years later, these resilient camellia trees are still producing plenty of flowers. Most are unidentified but Ed Minor recently spotted C. Gigantea, C. Mathotiana Variegated and C. Professor Charles S. Sargent. One problem is identifying these undersized blooms. Without proper plant care and disbudding the blooms are many but small. A comparison of these small blooms with photos or show samples is a challenge. This is why proper plant care is important for successful show blooms.
This collection of seedlings may produce a new variety of bloom although the odds are against this. Only a small percentage of seedlings produce new varieties of blooms with most reverting back to an unremarkable species parentage. We'll be nurturing these seedlings to find out in four to eight years if they perform or become good root stock for grafting.
Special thanks to Ken McDonald Jr. and the McDonald Garden Center for the continued support of the Virginia Camellia Society.
Dividing the Seedlings at Ed Minor's House
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