An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

March 2, 2012

A Sincere Thanks to the Nuccio Family

Here in Tidewater we are the traditional first notch in the camellia belt that stretches down the coast, across the south all the way to east Texas.  In Charleston, where I once spent a three-year vacation, Carolina gardeners are quite proud of their camellias and proud of the fact that the first camellia garden was established at Middleton Place. So I was surprised to learn that actually the first camellias in the country were imported by John Stevens of Hoboken, New Jersey in 1797 or 1798 (after all, it is the Garden State).  I was also surprised to learn that three out of my twelve camellias orginated in, California (another great camellia state) at Nuccio's Nurseries, including one of my favorite's, Camellia japonica 'Nuccio's Gem'. Ultimately, all camellias originated in the Orient and have a history there spanning millennia, so I should just let go of the notion that they are somehow especially southern.

Camellia japonica 'Nuuccio's Gem'

There is something about Nuccio's Gem that captures my attention.  Perhaps it is a combination of the formal-double form, its vigorous, prolific nature and the purity of white, even though white is not my favorite flower color.  In camellias, I normally tend to gravitate to the deep reds and the variegated, but that is forgotten when this plant blooms.

Camellia japonica 'Nuuccio's Gem' (3)

(Just to remind you there is still plenty of time to enter my Winter Walk-Off Challenge.)


  1. I really like that Camellia. The white is so pure but it has that little touch of yellow at the base of the petal. I like white in the garden, it pops. Have a couple red azaleas that I just bought, in bloom. They kind of disappear in the garden right now. Sure they are small, but if a white one was in its would see it.
    ps- where is the choice to subscribe to these comments? This new form has no place to click on the subscribe button.

  2. Your description explains why I often saw Nuccio's this and that in the southern california nurseries when I was visiting my mother. More than one of which came back with me in a suitcase (as I remember they were about $3.99 apiece). In the end I think I have about 4 left of that original stock that I punished for years in the basement over the winter before I figured out they could survive our winters. However, I will take your recommendation as an excuse to add another one this year — specifically Nuccio's Gem.

  3. This is the same one I grow! It is so beautiful this year-the best ever. A hard freeze couldn't even take away all of the lovely pristine white blooms-it did take quite a few. I enjoy learning about the history of camellias but I have to still hold onto the notion they are southern....just for my benefit:)

  4. I had a friend in the Tidewater area many years ago named Evelyn Clarke whose family was involved in the camellia business. Her garden in spring was a showplace. I believe there is a variety named after her. Sadly we can't grow them in the Carolina mountains (but perhaps that has changed with the new zones!)

  5. Mmmmmm. I remember seeing my first camellia. Maybe one day we'll be south enough again to grow them.

  6. Still, in appearance, they seem entirely Southern. They started in New Jersey? Finally! I have something positive to put on my list about New Jersey. I'll try to take photos this week of the camellias at Middleton Plantation.

    Great work, Les.

  7. That is one gorgeous camellia.

  8. Gorgeous blooms! It's nice to have a little white to make your deep red blooms leap. I love white in the garden.
    Alas... My attempt at a winter walk-off is finished!

  9. White is underrated. Embrace the white. That said, I live where it's gray and white can take on a lot interesting -- oh, I don't know -- gradients? as the light changes. Yeah, when we get real sun it just bleaches out. But much of time, it's lively and uplifting here.

  10. This is a beautiful flower that mainly can be grown in the right spot in Phoenix. It needs water though. I'm with you on the reds....definitely my favorite color of this plant.

  11. I thought it was Andre Michaux who first imported the camellia. Many thanks to all of those who did. They are the joy of winter for those of us where winter is brown and cold and not particularly snowy north or still-green south.

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  13. Thank you so much for being supportive, what an adventure. Your blog puts us to shame. What a beautiful website. I have been sharing it with everyone I know.


  14. white gardens are some of my favorites. that camellia is pristine perfection! visited middleton for the first time a few years ago and was enchanted. that spot on a tidal river, the house, the gardens, the history...the fried green tomato salad at the restaurant there...mmm...quite memorable.

  15. Camellias are super.

    By the way, I awarded you the versatile blogger award. Thanks for being you! g.

  16. I really like this variety. I wish I could grow them.

  17. Janet,
    I looked to see if my comment setting had been changed, and I could not find an option for people to follow comments. Next stop, google help center.

    With the changing of the climate map, I imagine the beginning of the camellia belt might be closer to where you are.

    Like yours, this was the best year ever for my Nuccio's Gem.

    Lynn (Dirt Diaries),
    You may not be able to grow most C. japonicas, but you may want to experiment with some of the Ackerman hybrids. They are fall bloomers that can take some cold.

    They make a fine conservatory plant too.

    Technically they were first imported to this counrty via Jersey, but it took a more southern climate for them to thrive out of doors.

    I agree. Thanks for stopping by.

    Thanks for joining in. I have posted a link on my Walk-Off page to your site.

    I trust your judgement on camellia matters.

    In the shadier parts of my garden, it is easier to appreciate what white is capable of.

    Funny about the water, they are remarkable drought tolerant here, but then again we get considerable more rain than you do.

    Until recently, that is what I thought too.

    Please don't be shamed. I have been at this for a while. Talk about what you love, and the rest will follow.

    Middleton is a special place, but for purely plant purposes, I actually prefer the Magnolia Gardens next door.

    Thanks for the nomination.

    Do you have a sun room?


  18. Gorgeous Camellia, Les! I still do not have one. Not sure where I would put it, though!

  19. Wonderful Cammellia, like a beautiful white dot of whipped cream and almost shaped as a lotus flower, beautiful!

  20. I have Nuccio's Pearl and Nuccio's Gem (both purchased from your nursery) -- we are very taken with Gem too. It has the most perfect flower.

    Growing up in Pasadena, CA, I didn't really know about the Southern connection until moving to Virginia -- always thought of camellias as the quintessential SoCal winter flower. The ones my mom cut from our yard stayed beautiful for up to 2 weeks in arrangements. We probably have a couple dozen different varieties in our garden now (admitted Camellia nuts) but only a few hold up more than a couple of days when cut.

  21. I think if you have the separate page comments there is no option for email comments. Have noticed it on a few other blogs.

  22. Jan,
    You should find a spot.

    It does look like a lotus.

    I have Nuccio's Pearl as well, but it is not nearly as vigorous as Gem. I think it has more to do with where I have it planted.

    I have tinkered with my settings and hopefully things will be easier. I did end word verification and set it up to moderate all comments. I immediately got some Russian spam, not a minute after changing the settings.


  23. I like white flowers so I really love this one; what a beauty. And thanks for that little history lesson.