Pensacola Camellia Club History

Click image below to view a Pensacola Camellia Club history presentation.


On November 23rd, men interested in camellias met at East LaRua Street and organized the oldest camellia club in the United States. “The objectives of the Club were to encourage growing of camellias and to spread information regarding their culture.”


First Camellia Show staged by the club in January.


American Camellia Society (ACS) was organized.


In February, G H. Wilkinson, received the first ACS Illges Seedling Japonica Award and the Award of Merit for his seedling Beau Harp which is #10 in ACS register.

Click here to see his registration document with ACS from 1949.

His Marjorie Magnificent is #36 in ACS register.

Followed by Elizabeth Le Bey, #37 on ACS register all in 1949.


Pensacola Men’s Camellia Club was incorporated as a Florida not-for-profit organization in July by the Circuit Court of Escambia County.


Click here to view “CAMELLIAS IN SAND DUNES” by Filo H. Turner. Published in American Camellia Yearbook – 1952.


The Club recognized the first Person of the Year award to Filo Turner.


William F. Bray, won the National Sewell Mutant Award, given by the ACS for his camellia Elegans Supreme.


Calluset, a product to start and aid growth of the callus on exposed cambium in grafting, was developed by Club member, Dr. Reid Leonard.


In January, the Club hosted an International Convocation with the National ACS Convention. This international meeting and show was attended by a total of 250 growers who exhibited 4,000 blooms with 10,000 visitors viewing the exhibits.


A Trust Fund and Auditing Committee was established. Funds were to be used to help underwrite the Club’s annual camellia show.


Articles of Reincorporation of the Club were signed and the name changed to Pensacola Camellia Club, Inc. At the December show, floral designs showcasing the camellia and bonsai exhibits were displayed.


W. M. Harrison’s Little Babe received the ACS’s Kathern and Les Marbury Award, which is annually awarded to the originator of the best small or small to medium japonica or non-reticulata hybrid.


Dr. T. E. Lundy was the winner of the ACS Illges Seedling Japonica Award for his camellia Lady Laura. The Illeges Award is generally considered to be recognition of the most outstanding recent japonica cultivar.

Mrs. A. E. Wilson also received the ACS Sewell Mulant Award for the camellia C. M. Wilson. The Sewell Award is awarded annually to the originator of a camellia sport showing a distinct beak in form or color.

In December, the Club gave a Special Recognition Award to Jean Comber, for her many contributions to the camellia world. She served as Secretary for the ACS for many years. Secretary and Publications Chairman for the Gulf Coast Camellia Society and served as editor of the International Camellia Society Journal. Jean and John Comber, worked to foster contacts with camellia growers in China and the United States for the exchange of information.


Dr. T. E. Lundy was awarded the Margerete Hertrich Award by the California Camellia Society for his Lady Laura bloom.


Peggys Blush1998 Don Applegate’s Peggy’s Blush, named for his wife, won the Frances Racoff Award for Best Formal Double at the National ACS Show and in 2019-2020 Peggy’s Blush won best in class five times in the USA. Don served as PCC President in 1989 and was named Person of the Year in 1990.


The Pensacola Camellia Club Foundation, Inc. was formed as the successor to the Club’s Trust Fund and Articles of Incorporation were filed with Florida Secretary of State. The purpose of the Foundation is to support the Pensacola Camellia Club’s scientific, education and charitable efforts, and to fund the annual show.


The Club joined the Pensacola Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc. as an Associate Member.

Club member, Jean Comber was honored by the ACS with the ACS Bronze Plaque. The Bronze Plaque is awarded to individuals who have furthered the aims of the ACS. The special award may only be given twice during any five year period.


Pensacola Camellia Club and University of West Florida (UWF) Retired Employee Association established a permanent camellia garden at UFW with the primary purpose of housing and protecting one specimen of every known variety that had been registered by Pensacola camellia growers. Currently, over 100 of the approximately 125 Pensacola originated varieties are growing at the UWF Camellia Garden.


The Club constructed the T. Morris Shade House to hold our potted camellias for future sale.

2009 – 2011

Club member, Roger Vinson, served as the President of the ACS, the first ACS officer from our Club.


The Club hosted the Annual Convention of the ACS. Over 100 participants from across the United States and England enjoyed our historic city.


The Club purchased a cargo van, painted it green with the ACS Camellia logo on the side. The van provides protection for transportation of many plants that are either purchased or sold at Club events.


The Club installed three raised camellia beds at the T. Morris Shade House for grafting projects.


In February, the UWF Camellia Garden was rededicated with over $40,000 of improvements, which included walkways, benches, lighting, and memorial bricks as UWF celebrated their 50th Anniversary.

For the December Annual Camellia Show many of the crystal awards were replaced by toy donations to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve “Toys for Tots” Program. These toys go to the poor children of Escambia County.


In February, Club members travelled to Jim Smelley’s property in Mississippi to tour his wonderful greenhouses where we selected scions of our choice for grafting and enjoyed a catered gumbo lunch together. Club members also took a field trip to the American Camellia Society headquarters and gardens in Fort Valley, Georgia for a garden tour and luncheon.

In October, PCC host the Gulf Coast Camellia Society Conference with fellow camellia lovers from the southeastern states for educational meetings, plant auction and special guest speaker Dr. Brie Arthur at the banquet dinner.

In November, we gave a lecture on Camellias 101 as part of the University of West Florida (UWF) Adult Leisure Learning Program.

In December, we hosted our annual camellia show and plant sale at our new show venue at the UWF Conference Center. We once again sponsored Toys for Tots charity donations in place of many of the bloom prizes.


In January, Club members participated in a field trip to the Tallahassee Camellia Show and toured camellia gardens at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park and the Dorothy B. Oven Park.

In February, the Club expanded its public visibility and community awareness through selling camellias and answering questions about their care at Palafox Market, downtown Pensacola. The event resulted in increasing the number of visitors to our UWF Camellia Garden Tour, where we had demonstrations of air layering and pruning, and our March Community Novice Show where inquisitive novices could show, buy, and learn more about camellias.

The American Camellia Society (ACS) Gulf Region will be represented by Roger Vinson as ACS Regional Vice President and Dr. Mack Thetford as ACS Club Director serving a three years term, July 2019 –June 2022.


We completed our educational program on Grafting, UWF Camellia Garden Tour and Novice Community Show all before the country was sent into Covid-19 lockdown in mid March. As we tried to start up the fall season we were hit by hurricane Sally damage throughout Pensacola community. The Club was not stopped by virus nor hurricane and held the 82nd Camellia Show at the Garden Center with a smaller amount of blooms, but a larger public turnout and a record 165 plants sold.


At the T. Morris Shade House, we have installed and modified a storage building. Members John Mate, contractor and Bill Lyford, electrician subdivided the building for outdoor machinery and indoor storage facility. Their many hours of labor enhanced the building with air conditioning, bathroom, kitchenette, skylight and storage for all of our show supplies and more. We are grateful for their dedication in completing this project for the benefit of the club.


The Shade House property saw improvements with the bulldozing of overgrown azalea plants, the spreading of the large dirt pile, and placement of large boulders along with the beginning of adding irrigation to the raised beds.

The Club expanded its public visibility and community awareness by selling camellias and answering questions about their care at ‘Bon Fests’ at the Bayview Center sponsored by the Okinawan Organization, St. Christopher’s Caravan Arts and Craft festival, and Palafox Markets, in downtown Pensacola.

Our annual December show was held at the Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio which was a perfect setting for our show and increased our membership and plant sales. We were fortunate to have a show prior to the December 22nd ‘Arctic Blast’ of below 20 degree temperatures for 5 days which resulted in cancel shows in January of 2023.


We went on a historical journey through the lives of five past members of the Pensacola Camellia Club guided by, Jane Benson. Jane did an extensive dive into the life and times of Rox Cowley a photographer, C.M. Wilson an artist, Charles Turner a builder, Sylvia Donahoo and Eva Mae McEvers.


February 14th of 2024 was not just Valentine’s Day, but the formal presentation of funds from the Pensacola Camellia Club and University’s Retired Employees Association totaling $25K. These funds were matched by an anonymous donor for a total of $50K for the UWF Camellia Garden’s Endowment. Now we have financial support to maintain the existing garden and future enlargement of the space.