The first camellia blooms of the season appeared in my garden this week—a delicate pink and white blossom and a classic red. They begin their season in December in my yard and last through March or April, depending on the severity of the winter. They brighten the wintry days with their pops of color in an otherwise dreary landscape.
They also signal that the dreaded summer heat of the south is finally, really, positively over. It’s time for the holidays, wood to be brought in for a fire, and a respite from exhausting garden chores—all while still getting abundant flowers.
I’ve always thought of them as a rather romantic flower, blooming as they do in such harsh conditions, so I’m drawn to the meaning of “A Hidden Romance” given to the Camellia in The Victorian Flower Oracle deck. “Romance and intrigue, a secret attachment, a lover who must remain hidden for now, an affair of the heart, a rather dangerous liaison.”
My usual reference book, The Rulership Book by Rex E. Bills, has no listing for Camellias and neither does Culpepper, so I turned to Scott Cunningham who associates it with the Moon. Being a Moonchild born during the sign of Cancer, I was delighted to make this connection with my beloved Moon. Cunningham also associates the Camellia with prosperity, riches, and luxury.
This correspondence is supported in The Spirit of Flowers Tarot/Tarot Floral where the Camellia represents The High Priestess who is associated with the Moon, memory, and intuition.
In the Language of Flowers, the white camellia represents “unpretending excellence.” In Henrietta Dumont’s The Language of Flowers published in 1852, the camellia receives the slogan of “modest merit” because it has no scent. It seems a shame that such beautiful flowers have no perfume, but what blossoms! I suppose we can use our lunar-given imagination and give them any scent we like.
In Birthflowers of the Landscape, Mystical Secrets to Year-Round Color in Your Garden, Linton Wright McKnight associates the Camellia with December birthdays. That would be second and third decan (20-29.59º) Sagittarius and first decan (0-9.59º) Capricorn (round about). He says …
“To give someone a Camellia or a gift with the Camellia pictured on it is to pass on to them these traits of honesty, happiness, cheerfulness, and love of adventure. The longer they are able to keep the image of this tender, beautiful flower visible to them, the stronger these traits will become a part of their personality. The more often they think of these attributes, the more they will observe the qualities of reliability, genuineness, and authenticity within themselves.”
Background and Care
Camellias come to us from Japan, love moist acidic soil, and partial shade. They can be grown in pots in colder climates, but thrive in the southeast where I live. Azaleas make great neighbors, enjoying the same growing conditions. They should be planted during the waning moon phase. Since they are a plant of the Moon, plant them during Cancer if possible. If not, try to plant during a fertile sign. The most important rule is to plant during the waning phase.
If we have no mountains to boast of, we have the sea, which is ever enjoyable, and we have Camellias. – Queen Victoria
Camellias may be shrubs or pruned into trees. Mine became quite gangly and unattractive. To save them, I pruned them hard. I removed most branches on two of the shrubs leaving some, but cut them back, too. A year later they are filled with buds and getting their shapes back. Another year of artful pruning should have them looking absolutely glorious.
Some Camellia leaves are used to produce tea, but they are different from the usual garden Camellia. If you’re interested in growing a Camellia for tea, that’s the Sinensis variety.
Resources, Quotes, Links
The Spirit of Flowers Tarot/Tarot Floral, Laura Tuan, Antonella Castelli
II The High Priestess: Camellia
“In the language of f lowers: unconditional love without expectations. Patience, fertility, wisdom, waiting, spirituality, understanding, maturity, mother, wife, good advice.”
The Victorian Flower Oracle, Karen Mahony and Alexandr Ukolov, Sheila Hamilton. Note: This deck is now out of print, very expensive to purchase.
Birthflowers of the Landscape, Mystical Secrets to Year-Round Color in Your Garden, Linton Wright McKnight
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham
“The camellia brings riches and luxury, and so is used in spells of this kind. Place the fresh blossom in vessels of water on the altar during money and prosperity rituals.”