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History of The Illawarra Camellia Society 

In July 2012 Camellias Illawarra Inc will be presenting its 60th annual consecutive Camellia Show. It is anticipated that, as in previous years, this show will satisfy the most fastidious seeker of colour and beauty in nature. This show has come a long way since 1953 when the decision was made to stage a small non competitive display in the steel city of Wollongong. In that year Professor E. G. Waterhouse, a name well known and respected in the Sydney area for his avid interest in camellias, brought to Bega on the south coast of N.S.W., numerous boxes of camellia blooms from his own gardens, in order to stage a display of that species in that town. Like a pebble tossed into a pool, ripples of interest in the display readily pushed out into N.S.W. and soon reached the attention of the President of Wollongong Legacy. With the assistance of two sisters Alice and Wilga Musgrave (who were like wise involved in the Legacy movement) he examined the possibility of Legacy sponsoring a similar display in Wollongong. Consequently in collaboration with Professor Waterhouse and his wife, Alice and Wilga were instrumental in staging a most successful display of camellias in this city. The 1990 photo on left pictures Alice Musgrave (left) with Jack and Pauline Wilson. The next year the show became competitive and for a number of years local interests were bolstered with many blooms being brought in from the renowned nursery operated by Professor Waterhouse, ‘Camellia Grove’ (previously located at St Ives, Sydney now at Glenorie). The impact of the annual show grew with each passing year and after 5 successful years it became, and remains, a two day event.

In 1986 the show attracted 1000 blooms which were scattered across 74 classes. The entries reached a peak in 2001 when 2,429 blooms were exhibited. In subsequent years due to adverse dry weather conditions (which have affected considerable portions of Australia), as well as the loss of some competitors due to ill health and death, the number of blooms entered into our show have decreased slightly. In 2011 the Society was privileged to bench 2129 blooms spread across 202 classes. We are fortunate to have moving into our competitive ranks a number of younger keen gardeners who in addition to the experience of “older hands” will enable the club to offer the public a dazzling display to the senses. From many quarters it has been said that Illawarra presents the largest Camellia Show in Australia.

Complementing the Annual Show is the Reticulata Show which over the second weekend in August will present to the public the exotic Reticulata Camellia. While smaller than the annual show, it nevertheless presents a worthwhile insight into the Reticulata bloom which can grow to a size as large as a dinner plate. 2012 will herald the 14th year Wollongong has seen this annual display and all who take time out to visit the display will be well rewarded. In association with the Reticulata Show Society members will be displaying blooms (other than Reticulata) as a part of their regular monthly benching competition.

Alice Musgrave (pictured above on the left) along with her sister Wilga have been honoured for their extensive work in the establishment of the Society by the provision of trophies in their names for The Champion Illawarra Exhibit and the Champion Collection of Five Camellias. Jack & Pauline Wilson have shown great devotion the Society and Jack has bred two Camellias named after his grandchildren. To honour the Wilson’s association with Camellias Illawarra the Jack and Pauline Memorial Medal was inaugurated to be presented to the Reserve Champion Exhibit in both the Annual and Reticulata Shows.
Associated with the shows held by Camellias Illawarra, are the shows in Sydney, Berry and Hume where one will find our members competing or judging. On many occasions Camellia Illawarra members have benched champion blooms. Basis to the successful shows are the well attended monthly meetings where from March to September friendly competitive benching is held.