You’ll have to be organised to see the Chiswick House camellias this year

Image above: The heritage camellias in the conservatory at Chiswick House

This year’s show to be “low key”

The camellias in the conservatory at Chiswick House will be less admired this year. Normally the heritage plants are on show for several weeks and visitors can stroll through the conservatory admiring the different varieties in all their glory. This year the viewing will be more “low key” Chiswick House director Xanthe Arvanitakis told The Chiswick Calendar.

Chiswick House is having to keep the wings of the conservatory closed to the public as they are in need of conservation repairs. The rotunda will be open for just two weekends – 25 / 26 February and 5/6 March, so you can admire the flowers close-by and stand and look at the length of the conservatory from that central point.

READ ALSO: Three Gold awards for Chiswick House Gardens in London in Bloom

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Image above: The heritage camellias in the conservatory at Chiswick House; photograph Anna Kunst; close up pale pink camellia

You can also take a tour of the camellias outdoors. (Fun fact – camellias actually do better outdoors, which is something the gardeners at Chiswick House only found out when a WWII bomb shattered the glass of the conservatory and exposed them to the outside air).

There will be a pop-up shop where you can buy heritage camellia plants and other camellia related merchandise, and you can use your Chiswick Calendar Club Card for a 10% discount in it.

Chiswick House is talking to Hounslow Council, which owns the conservatory, about plans for its restoration.

Video above – Interview with the head gardener in 2015, Geraldine King, about the collection’s history and the 2015 show

A status symbol introduced by the 6th Duke

Chiswick’s rare camellias are one of the oldest collections under glass in Europe. Brought by ship from China, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years, they were a luxury commodity and a symbol of status. At the time of the 6th Duke, people thought they needed to be housed under glass. Queen Mary, wife of King George V, was a great admirer of camellias at Chiswick and visited regularly to see them.

These extraordinary plants were in danger of being lost as the Conservatory fell into ruin in the late 20th century. Three local members of the International Camellia Society stepped in to look after them and saved the historic camellias. Today, the collection comprises 33 different varieties, including examples of many of the earliest varieties introduced to Britain – Chiswick House gardeners  believe some of their collection date back to the 6th Duke’s 1828 collection.

SEE ALSO: Gallery of images from the 2020 Camellia show

SEE ALSO: 300 years of Chiswick House Gardens

Image above: Heritage camellias in the conservatory at Chiswick House; photograph Jon Perry

Camellia Talk

On 5 March at 3:00pm Nadege Forde-Vidal will give a talk about the Camellia Sinensis, also known as the tea plant, and the way this has crossed boundaries between art, medicine, religion, horticulture, trade and social behaviour for centuries.

Book tickets here: A global sensory experience through time

Image above: The rotunda of the conservatory at Chiswick House; March 2020; close up dark pink camellia

Camellia Competition

On 26 February, Chiswick House is delighted to be hosting the popular International Camellia Society annual camellia competition.  This year, you are being invited to bring in your most beautiful bloom. Click here for full details and how to enter.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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