In the whole range of splendid plants that have been introduced into this country, few if any combine so much elegance and beauty as the camellia, according to Milton H. Brown, executive secretary, American Camellia Society. At all seasons of the year it is unrivaled for the richness of its foliage, but in the dreary months of winter when almost all the attractions of the floral kingdom are wrapt in slumber, it stands forth with particular splendor, he says.
Brown is associate editor of a new book, "The Camellia -- Its History, Culture, Genetics and a Look Into Its Future Develpment," published by the American Camellia Society, Massee Lane, P.O. Box 1217, Fort Valley, Ga., 31030, 476 pages, $12.50.
The book can be ordered from the American Camellia Society. It is not being sold to book stores as yet.
Mr. and Mrs. Brown lived in the Washington area for over 25 years and he was the founding prsident of the Camellia Society of the Potomac Valley, and grew hundres of Camellias in Arlington and McLean.
The editor of the book is David L. Feathers, writer, lecturer and innovator of new camellias for the past 40 years. The contributing authors of chapters are internationally know for their specialized fields and their overall knowledge of the camellia.
The 13 beautifully illustrated chapters cover almost everything one would want to know about camellias and how to grow them. The 24 pages of color include more than 55 varieties of camellias, flower forms and flower arrangement.
"In basic concept, this book is intended to reflect the knowledge and history of the camellia and its culture accrued over a period of the last 40 years or so," the editors say, "a period during which we have witnessed the greatest developments and progress in camellia culture since its introduction into the Western world over two centuries ago.
"Our object has been to combine with four decades of practical experience most of the scientific dertermination and conclusions accumulated over this extended period."
The winter season 1976-77 was extremely severe throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and plant injury among the camellias at the National Arboretum, here was the most devastating in the 30-years history of the collection, according to the book. Many plants up to 25 years old and 14 feet in height had all of their foliage destroyed.
Winter injury was not confined to camellias alone but was general in the Washington area for most broadleaf evergreens and some conifers as well.
What was it about the 1976-77 season that set it apart from other winters? The low temperatures did not equal those of other winters during the past decade when little or no injury was evident.
Instead, it was a complex of at least three climatic factors that acting together created the devastation now evident among our plants.
These factors consisted of: (a) prolonged temperatures below the freezing point which created continually frozen ground for much of the winter; (b) winter drought, and (c) excessive drying winds. Our plant injury was caused more by water loss than physical cold.
The ground froze in the Washington area to a depth of over three feet, which is below the root zone of most camellias. This condition, which developed in December, extended through January and February without interuption. Thus, the majorilty of the plants had no means of replenishing their moisture loss by absorbing additional water through the soil.
The little precipitation that did occur during the winter months fell on frozen ground. We can be quite certain that much of the rain was lost in runoff.
Drying winds with low precipitation accompanied by low humidity was the cause of plant injury. Plants along the main pathways in the camellia collection, in general, showed the greatest injury, even to the extent of opposite sides of the same plant.