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.

April 3, 2009

The Hofheimer Camellia Garden

The first year I spent in Norfolk was when I was a freshman at Old Dominion University. In the spring of the year I spent a lot of time on my bike riding through the older neighborhoods that are close to campus. Even though I did not know what everything was, I was amazed at the abundant riot of spring color. Houses surrounded by blooming walls of Azalea, wooded neighborhoods cloaked in Dogwood - these plants I knew from growing up in Richmond. What was exotic and not familiar to me were the Camellias, many of them reaching toward the second story of the houses. Although I am sure I liked spring in my adolescence, it was here that I came to truly appreciate it.

Now that I am in the business of horticulture, I have nearly come to dread spring. I loose one of my days off at the end of March and don't get it back again until after Mother's Day or even Memorial Day. Not only is my time at work more frequent, it is also much more frantic and stressful. So with this in mind, I choose to spend one of my last free Saturdays roaming through the Camellias at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, instead of pursuing more practical concerns. The Gardens have over 1600 Camellias, 700 are in the Hofheimer Camellia Garden. I was able to get there while Camellia japonica was in peak bloom - it was Shangri La.

'Apple Blossom'

'Edna Campbell'


'Lady Laura'

'Mabel Bryan'

'Masterpiece Pink'


'Taylor's Perfection'

'Terrell Weaver'

'White By The Gate'

'White Nun'

Finally, this is the tallest Camellia I have ever seen with this blog's author pictured for scale.


  1. Awesome. I wish I had room for a camellia.

    You nearly dread spring? Note to self: Don't work in horticulture!

  2. Wow now that is a big camellia! They are all beautiful. I have several and I enjoy them so much when they are blooming!

  3. Time for a short road trip. Those Camellias are just beautiful!

  4. That sure is one tall camellia. It is like a holly tree. When I was in Florida at Christmas the camellias in the botanical garden were in peak bloom. I guess their bloom time like all plants slowly moves north.

  5. Simply splendid Les. I don't blame you for enjoying leisurely pursuits-we all need to unwind somehow. Work will still be there when we get back.

  6. Chuck,
    "Nearly dread" was probably too strong. Maybe dread my spring work schedule.

    I am looking for a way to get several more into my garden.

    You are not too far and it would be worth the trip.

    It was definately tree sized.

    Yes work has a way of never going away.


  7. I would love to spend a weekend or at least a day there. I like the striped ones and need to get more in my garden. That is a super tall camellia. I don't think I've ever seen one that big.

  8. Goodness gracious, what a plethora of camellias. I love the older homes with mature plantings too, a different world from new subdivisions. Those in new houses should go through and make notes of placement and types of trees and shrubs to plant for the future. I have one camellia that is blooming for the first time this year. Jury's Yellow. It has brown spotty things inside that totally mar the beauty of the blooms. Is this normal? I should replace it with a better white like White By The Gate?

  9. It's just amazing what you can grow that we can't! It's all we can do to beg a rhododendron to hang on around here. :)

  10. the camellia shots are beautiful...what a treat to see them in bloom..ours in Charleston, SC are about done...glad to see you enjoyed the last Saturday for free time. Best in the season ahead!

  11. Phillip,
    I liked the striped ones also, especially the one that looks tie-dyed. I would think that there should be at least one plant in Alabama to rival the size of last one pictured, after all isn't it the state flower?

    If you have had freezing weather just before or after the buds have opened, you will get brown spots, especially on the white varieties.
    I agree with you that anyone with a new garden should take a stroll through older neigborhoods, notepad and/or camera in hand.

    We can't grow true Rhodos here either, Azaleas are like weeds though. I was thinking while writing this post that Camellias sort of fill the same niche as a Rhodo - large, evergreen, showy flowers, shade loving, etc..

    Ours are about done too, especially after gale winds this past Friday and pelting rain and storms today.


  12. That camellia is huge. You are both very nice and attractive specimens. I didn't know camellia had two l's.

    I hope you are busy as all get out this year and lose lots of time ;) You'll get over it when vacation times rolls around and the nursery is empty. I wish I was there to help and buy.

    All the pictures are fun to see as there aren't many around here. The frost keeps nipping the buds.

  13. Anna,
    I can't speak for both specimens, but this one thanks you. We were incredibly busy this weekend and even yesterday between tornado warnings and storms - we were busy.


  14. Beautiful camellias! I enjoyed the diversity of color although the classic White Nun remains my favorite.

  15. Beautiful and I see their White By The Gate was really white! I mean very white! gail

  16. That's the tallest camellia I've ever seen too. It could play center for the National Champion Tar Heels! (Yes, I've been dropping that phrase into every conversation I've had this week. People are starting to get sick of it!)

  17. Sarah,
    The white flowers are not the first i am drawn to, but I love how the White Nun.

    Maybe one day your White by the Gate will be what it is supposed to be. If not, buy another.

    Thanks for the complement and for stopping by, you are welcome to return.

    A little bragging is not a bad thing. I can see my mother rolling her Duke educated eyes.


  18. Lovely Camellias! These have outdone this spring's blossoms in Berkeley.

  19. What a collection! I hadn't heard of that garden. I've decided that camellias are addictive - there's always that new (or old) variety that one must have! I really like Apple Blossom - I've seen that one before and really liked it.