Sir Peter Blake launches Chiswick House Camellia Festival 2012

Famous local artist recalls happy days in the Gardens

What's on in Chiswick

The Chiswick House Camellia Festival 2012
Chiswick House Gardens, W4 2QN
Dates: 18 February –18 March 2012
Conservatory opening hours: Daily 10 am –4pm
Chiswick House: exclusive ‘Festival’ weekend openings 10am – 4pm

Advance bookings and information: Tickets £8 including free Camellia guide. For details of group bookings and specialist lecture tours: contact or Tel: 020 8742 3905.Ticket hotline:0844 4771000

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Local artist Sir Peter Blake recalled his long association and affection for Chiswick House Gardens this week when he opened the Camellia Festival 2012 which runs until March 18th.

“Chiswick House Gardens is a special place. I took our daughter Rose there so many times when she was a child” he said.

Picture: Anna Kunst

The old climbing tree is wonderful, the calmness of the lake and beautiful trees are an inspiration. I'm thrilled that the Camellia House has been restored.”

Sir Peter , a long time resident of Chiswick, became famous as a pop artist for designing the Sergeant Pepper album sleeve for the Beatles. He became a Royal Academician in 1981, a CBE in 1983 and in 2002 was knighted for his services to art. He was accompanied by Lady Blake on his visit to the Camellia Festival.

Another visitor was journalist and radio presenter Vanessa Feltz, who posed with her favourite pink camellias.

This year’s festival celebrates over thirty rare and wonderful Camellia blooms in glorious colours from classic white to bright shades of pink and red - ‘a wall of colour’ housed in the spectacular Chiswick Gardens Conservatory. The festival, organised by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust brings a burst of glorious colour to the winter season .

New additions to the festival this year include a gorgeous exhibition of blooms by Camellia specialist growers Trehane Nursery; elegant new pots on the historic stone shelving introducing the delicious scent of jasmine and hyacinth; lemon trees and the lovely 19th Century marble statue of A Girl (or Nymph) at the Bath, newly returned to the Conservatory from Chiswick House.

The setting for the festival is the spectacular Chiswick Gardens Conservatory designed by Samuel Ware in 1813. To complement the Festival, the newly restored Italian Garden, created for the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1814, has been replanted with an early display of Spring flowers. The early 19th Century Italian Garden was at the cutting edge of horticultural fashion and extravagant gardening.

The Chiswick House Camellia collection, housed in the conservatory, is a national treasure and probably the oldest in the Western world. It includes rare and historically important examples of these beautiful plants, with a fabulous array of blooms; pink, red, white and striped. Many of these are descended from the original planting in 1828.

New features for the festival in 2012 include the replanting of the Italian Garden; new Camellia displays by specialist nursery Trehane and experts on hand to advise on every aspect of Camellias and how to grow them.

The Camellias that grow at Chiswick are all of the species C. japonica. The original collection was ordered by William Lindsay, the 6th Duke’s Head Gardener, from Alfred Chandler’s Vauxhall nursery Middlemist’s Red’ was originally brought to Britain from China in 1804 by Londoner John Middlemist, a nurseryman from Shepherds Bush. It is believed to have been presented by one of his descendants to Chiswick sometime after 1823 as the Sixth Duke added to his growing collection of camellias. Despite its name, the plant blooms a deep pink and is normally in full bloom during the months of February and March. The only other known plant of this variety is at the Treaty House, Waitangi, New Zealand.

These extraordinary plants were in danger of being lost as the conservatory fell into ruin in the last years of the 20th century, but three local members of the International Camellia Society stepped in to tend them, ensuring their survival prior to the major restoration of Chiswick House Gardens, completed in June 2010.

Camellias have been grown in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam as a garden plant for thousands of years. The name of ‘Camellia’ was given to the genus in the 18th century, in honour of Georg Josef Kamel, a Moravian Jesuit apothecary and botanist, who worked in the Far East.

To complement the Festival, the shop will be selling special Camellia inspired merchandise, as well as a range of varieties of Camellia Plants. The award-winning café will be serving a delicious seasonal menu. All profits raised help to support Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, a registered charity dedicated to the preservation and continued enhancement of the historic Chiswick House Gardens open free to the public from dawn to dusk everyday.

February 21, 2012