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Leila S. Case: Camellia blossoms strut their stuff

Camellias, South Georgia’s winter gift from Mother Nature, brighten our landscape even on the dreariest of days, and if you are a permanent resident you’re aware we’ve had a plethora of those in the past month. It rained almost daily a few weeks ago and made our spirits plummet; however, all that rain helped camellias buds burst into bloom.
The combination of abundant rainfall and temperatures that stayed above freezing is what these showy flowers like, and so do the paper white narcissus that are also preening their lacy blooms right now. They bloom where they’re planted and cheer our spirits like the sun shining.
Many Americus and Sumter County residents specialize in raising prize-winning camellias and we’re also only an hour’s drive from the headquarters of the National Camellia Society in nearby Fort Valley where acres and acres of garden paths lined with many varieties of camellia bushes — the old standbys as well as the showy, blowsy bloomers — are being raised and developed by expert growers.
Today I want to focus on the beautiful camellias that Rebecca Lynn McNeill grows at her country home outside Americus. They are perfectly lovely. An English and botany major in college, Rebecca put the knowledge she acquired to work in gardening and growing all sorts of plants and flowers indigenous to this area of Georgia while her late husband Bob farmed. She’s a master flower show judge and has conducted many classes on flower design. She participates in the annual Georgia National Fair flower show as a member of the Dogwood Garden Club and it’s a rare year she doesn’t capture a top award in flower design and horticulture, too. And she’s on the board of directors of the Garden Club of Georgia.
This past week more than 50 of Rebecca’s camellia blooms were plucked from the 16 bushes that grow so profusely in her garden and were used to decorate four tables at the most recent luncheon meeting of the Council of Safety Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. Besides the breathtaking centerpieces, a camellia blossom was at each attendee’s place setting to take home, plunge in water and enjoy its beauty. Although Rebecca says she has neglected caring for the camellias like she should in the past few years, it’s not apparent — they are thriving and preening for us all.
Elsewhere Brooks Nettum and her niece, Virginia Brooks Lanier, 9, are in New York City and busy from dawn to way past dusk checking off everything on the whirlwind itinerary they planned together. Guests at the Warwick Hotel, that is very close to Times Square, their first stops were shopping at the American Doll Store and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), across from the hotel. They enjoyed afternoon tea with Eloise in the elegant Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel and that evening saw a performance of “The Lion King.” They visited the Statue of Liberty, Empire State building, ice skated in Central Park and ventured into Greenwich Village for a trip to Dylan’s Candy Bar. I wouldn’t doubt Virginia naps on the flight home.
I was pleased to visit briefly with former resident Billy Blair, former owner/publisher of this newspaper, who along with the late Rudy Hayes hired me (incidentally they thought I wouldn’t last a month but I was on the T-R editorial staff for 23 years). Billy, who now lives in Huntsville, Alabama, and his oldest daughter, Wiffi Anderson, of Huntsville, were in town recently, and we enjoyed catching up. Billy says he’s playing golf (a long-time hobby) several times a week and working out at the YMCA.
The Council Club had its first gathering of the year Thursday night at the Lee Council House — it was chili night — a good evening for that to be on the menu for it matched the chilly weather outside.
Don’t forget two live theater presentations are coming up. “Forever Young” will be on stage at the Rylander Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19. Make reservations now. And also the annual library play, a Friends of the Library fundraiser at Lake Blackshear Regional Library. Performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, and include a sumptuous cocktail buffet and a 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 3.
I’ll see you at both. Smile and say hello.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.