Camellias and people always go together. Over the years, I have met many colorful camellias and a few people that are just as colorful! One of those people was my good friend Jerry Conrad. For over 20 years, Jerry and I talked on the phone at least every other day, and sometimes 3-4 times a day. He owned a Camellia Nursery in Plymouth, Florida called Erinon Camellias. As you can tell from the name of his business, selling camellias was his specialty. But…it wasn’t just selling camellias that made Jerry happy. He loved them with every fiber of his being. I think that it was his total passion for camellias that made Jerry and I such close friends for all those years.
When Jerry was just getting started with camellias, he made friends with a Camellia Grower in the Orlando area named Dale Fitzgerald, who would soon become one of Jerry’s mentors. Dale taught Jerry everything that he knew about camellias. At some point, Dale Fitzgerald passed away leaving an incredible seedling of his to Jerry’s Care. The seedling came from the japonica called ‘Moonlight Bay’, and it was truly outstanding. Jerry decided to register it for Dale, and so he gave it the official name of ‘Sweetie Pie’. It seems that this was the pet name that Dale’s wife Louise had used to refer to him. Until this day, most people think that ‘Sweetie Pie’ was a Jerry Conrad seedling. Now you know the story that goes with this camellia. Jerry passed away several years ago, so I always think of him when I think of this camellia.
We are very excited about growing and selling ‘Sweetie Pie’. It is a fantastic plant for your garden, and the incredibly large flowers are simply awesome! Why not stop by on Friday or Saturday and visit. I would love to show you ‘Sweetie Pie’ and many other outstanding camellias!
Gene Phillips is one of the owners of Gene’s Nursery in Savannah, Ga. He is a 2nd generation grower and attributes his love of Camellias to his father, who inspired him to breath in the beauty that they bring to him but more importantly to others. In his ‘free’ time, you’ll find him wandering through old gardens, trying to identify flowers or taking countless number of photos to share with others! He also enjoys meeting people and comparing ‘garden’ stories.