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