I sniff camellias every chance I get. My reward? A delicate fragrance — and a nose dusted with yellow pollen. It’s fun to poke your nose into camellias — and at the week-long Descanso Gardens Camellia Festival beginning Saturday, visitors will not only be sniffing, they’ll also be tasting camellia teas and cocktails, showing off prize homegrown blooms, and re-living festival moments of the 1950s and ’60s.
Spectacular or shy, red, white, pink, or variegated, camellias are the Gardens’ signature flower. This year Descanso goes all out with a salute to the Golden Age of the Camellia Festival — the 1950s and ’60s, when the extensive camellia collection was showcased with elaborate pageantry, society shows, a “Queen of Camellialand” contest, and walks through the famed winter-blooming flower forests. See for yourself if this year’s celebration measures up.
Charles Phoenix ‘s Retro Slide Show of Southern California. Pop-culture skewerer and celebrator Phoenix peppers his hilarious homage to living room slide shows of yesteryear with photos of Camellia Queens of the era. Guests are invited to arrive in themed clothes and imbibe camellia cocktails before and after the “hip, high-octane” gathering. Tickets are $25 each and are available at Ticketweb. Saturday, February 20, 8 p.m.
Brewing Camellias – A Tea Tasting Workshop. Almost all teas come from the beautiful Camellia sineses. Get the lowdown on camellia history and tea-growing facts and learn to discern the differences among green, oolong and black teas. Hot tea tasting is the finale. Free with admission, but seating is limited so call ahead to reserve. Sunday, February 21, 1 p.m.
The Southern California Camellia Council Show. Bring a camellia from your garden for identification and to learn more about it from friendly experts. Aarrive early on Saturday to enter your blooms in novice and intermediate categories but stay to browse all the breathtaking examples on display. Free with admission. Saturday, February 27, 1 to 4 p.m. and Sunday, February 28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Take a Walking Tour of the Camellia Forest. Join Descanso’s Wayne Walker as he guides flower fanciers into the forest of Camellia sansanqua. Free with Gardens admission. Saturday, February. 27, 2 p.m.
If you can’t make any of these events, just drop by one day this month and take your own stroll through the shady, spectacular camellia forest. It’s well worth the price of admission even if you only have an hour to spend. As you amble, if you notice that someone has placed a perfect blossom on a rock or a bench or in the middle of the path — stop and smell the camellias!
Descanso Gardens Camellia Festival
Saturday, February 20 through Sunday, February 28, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada
Admission $8 adults, $6 seniors/students; $3 children 5 to 12. Members and children 5 and younger, free.
Call 818. 949.4200 or visit descansogardens.org