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Camellia Growers Get Ready for Show

Camellias bloom with azaleas at the corner of the house

Steve and Oliva Popovich will both go out early this coming Saturday morning, January 13th, and pick their best flowers for the Camellia Show and Plant Sale at the Tampa Woman's Club, 2901 Bayshore Blvd at Bay-to-Bay in Tampa.

Entries will be take from members and non-members alike from 7 to10 am. Judging will follow, and the show and plant sale will be open to the public from 1 to 5 pm. Get there early for the best selection of plants. Admission, much information, inspiration, and parking are all free.

Steve and Livia Popovich are still new to showing, but they have already won blue ribbons.

They have worked hard but willingly to make and keep their yard the showplace it has long been and also to add some touches of their own.

Steve was busy flying for Continental when his wife Olivia found and offered to buy the home and gardens where they have lived for the past four years. He did agree by phone, but when he first saw the place he was overwhelmed. The property had been owned by D.W. Davis, a nationally known camellia expert, in the 1940s. It was here that Davis discovered the now-well-known camellia with large blush pink, almost white flowers and named it Mrs. D.W. Davis. So the Popoviches almost had to join the Tampa Bay Area Camellia Society to learn more about taking care of the sixty or more large camellia bushes that bloom from November through March in their yard.

Steve and Olivia Popovich with one of their many mature camellia bushes.

Paul and Ingrid DuBose purchased a ten acre nursery site from Davis in 1973, relocated his business from Brandon to Seffner, renovated an abandoned house in the middle of the property and restored two acres of neglected camellias and azaleas into a garden paradise. DuBose named it Camelliawood Gardens. In 1987 they built a new home on this one acre corner.

"Paul had been in poor health and the gardens were somewhat overgrown when we came," says Steve. "It took us a year and a half to get it all back in shape." Judging from today's perfection, one might assume it looked rather amazing all along but, like all gardens, it is always changing and developing.

There is still a good bit of lawn, but Steve says it does not take long to mow. The weeding was an every day chore at first, but since he has been bringing home hundreds of bags of leaves every winter for mulch, the weeding is now a once a month chore and the soil is continually improved. He also brings home mulch from the landfill on Faulkenberg Road. "That is good enough for potting soil," he says, "especially for bromeliads."

There is an irrigation system. Camellias and azaleas both need a good bit of water. They get blueberry fertilizer from Gro More in Plant City and use about 8 bags a year, feeding in fall for flowers and in spring for new growth. The deep green healthy foliage proves the plants are well fed. Disbudding takes a bit of time, but each bud needs to be single, not double, for show blooms or just for the largest, most perfect flowers.

A dozen large camellia bushes grace the front garden and are just beginning to bloom. There will soon be hundreds of flowers here.

Olivia was raised on a farm in Italy. They lived all over when they were in the military, did little gardening in Alaska but a good bit in Arizona and other places. Her sister lives in Tampa and is now a great source of both plants and Florida gardening information.

"Gardening is my therapy," Olivia says.

They give Paul and Ingrid DuBose credit for the excellent landscaping of the home. They followed the rule of mass planting of the same plants for great visual impact. A border along the road contains a dozen large camellia bushes that are 25 to 30 years old. More camellias are mixed with other plants around all the other edges of the yard as well. They were just beginning to bloom when these photos were taken.


'Vashti' and 'Elizabeth Arden'

The 'Elizabeth Boardman'

The 'Mrs. D. W. Davis'

The C. japonica, 'Mrs. D.W. Davis,' was a seven year old seedling of 'Elizabeth Boardman.' It first flowered in 1951 and was registered with the American Camellia Society in 1954. It won the Illges Medal in 1955.. The original 'Elizabeth Boardman' that produced Mr. Davis's seedling is still surviving in good condition at Camelliawood under the care now of Steve and Olivia Popovich.