Camellias on Show at Chiswick House This Spring

Two open weekends give chance so see collection of rare plants

Camellias have been growing in the Conservatory since the start of the 19th century
Camellias have been growing in the Conservatory since the start of the 19th century


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Chiswick House is to host two open weekends (26-27 February and 5-6 March) for a chance to see one of the oldest indoor collections of rare camellias in Europe.

The flowers are housed in a Georgian Conservatory commissioned by the sixth Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858), the great-grandson of Lord Burlington. At the time, it was thought that these precious plants needed to be housed under glass and they were installed in the conservatory built by Samuel Ware in 1813. It is now known that camellias also thrive in the outdoors and there are several camellia plants dotted around the Chiswick House Gardens. Visitors can follow the Camellia Trail to find eight outdoor plants.

In the Georgian era they were considered a luxury commodity and a symbol of status. Queen Mary, wife of King George V, was a great admirer of the Chiswick House camellias.

When the Chiswick House Conservatory fell into ruin in the late 20th century, local members of the International Camellia Society stepped in to rescue the camellia collection which now comprises 33 different varieties. It is believed that some of the plants date back to the sixth Duke’s original collection.

Director Xanthe Arvanitakis said, “We look forward to welcoming visitors to experience the spectacle of these glorious plants in full bloom. Due to the fragile condition of the wings of the Conservatory only the central Rotunda will be open during the open weekends but there will be plenty of camellias on view and providing us with a welcome splash of spring colour after the winter months.”

There will also be a pop-up shop with a selection of camellia-themed products including Chiswick House & Gardens Camellia and Cedar Gin, plus a limited number of Chiswick House propagated camellia plants. All income from the shop will help support the preservation of the camellias.

As part of this year’s Camellia Celebration weekends, The International Camellia Society will be running a camellia competition. This year’s competition focuses on beautiful blooms: with entrants invited to bring their homegrown camellia flower heads (three maximum per person). Winners will be announced at 11am on Saturday 26 February in the Chiswick House & Gardens Conservatory. Find out more and enter competition.

On 5 March at 3pm there will be a talk by Nadege Forde-Vidal about the Camellia Sinensis, also known as the tea plant. Find out how this member of the camellia family has crossed boundaries between art, medicine, religion, horticulture, trade and social behaviour for centuries. Find out more and book tickets.

This page is sponsored by Rocks Lane who support community initiatives in Chiswick.

February 11, 2022

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