Winter Flowers with a Dark Past

All winter long, in the shade of towering, ancient oaks, camellias bloom red, pink, and white in California’s Descanso Gardens. This enchanting garden has a painful origin, one tied to World War II. It is also a story of a beam of light in the darkness, an act of friendship amidst the anguish of many people.

This KCET video tells the story in less than twelve minutes, starting at the nine-minute mark, but you may want to watch the entire episode. Descanso Gardens is located in the city of La Canada (can-YA-da) Flintridge, only thirteen miles from downtown Los Angeles.

This video should start at about 9:00 minutes. Watch to 20:24. The last minute tells of the construction of Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens, completing the story of what is now the largest camellia collection in North America.

E. Manchester Boddy saw a business opportunity, Brown says, but also had “deep compassion” for his friends and paid a fair price for the camellias.

The camellias I’ve seen in California are pink, white or red or a combination, such as red and white stripes. I hunt for “sports.” These are single plants with two different colors of blooms. For example, a camellia shrub with red blooms might have a section with white ones. Those branches have a natural mutation, so its blooms are different.

The trailer for the episode shows the gardens at Descanso.

Camellias at Descanso bloom from early autumn to spring, with the most dazzling floral display in winter, from January through February. Other gardens at Descanso make it beautiful year-round.

Author: Pamela Tartaglio

Fiction writer, blogger and a past president of Women Writing the West.

4 thoughts on “Winter Flowers with a Dark Past”

  1. Fascinating! I hadn’t known this history. While watching, I thought, “My friend Naomi Hirahara would find this interesting.” And then there she was in the video, telling us about the history. They call her a journalist, which she is. She’s also an Edgar Award-winning novelist. She wrote (and won awards for) a series of novels about (wait for it) a Japanese-American gardener named Mas Arai (born in Japan) who stumbles upon the occasional murder.
    http://www.naomihirahara.com/

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