When I think back about growing up with camellias, an awful lot of memories jump out! One that still gets me smiling is when I think about all those wide mouth gallon jars that we used to have for grafting covers at the nursery. We have been growing and selling camellias at our family business for almost 60 years, and things have changes a good bit over that time. Today, we still graft camellias, but we usually do that just to quickly establish stock plants of a variety or species that we want to begin propagating in the near future. These days, we do most of our camellia propagtion through by cuttings. However, when I was little and growing up here, that was not the case. Everyone that grew camellias way back then grafted them, and my Daddy was one of the best grafters around. And what was his main grafting cover? You guessed it. The wide mouth gallon jar was what he used the most to cover his grafts.

I can still remember going with his to the old McCorkles’s Bakery in Savannah to pick up empty gallon jars that Mr. Bob had saved for him. He used to also get them from the old Kentucky Fried Chicken take out on Waters Avenue near DeRenne Avenue. They would save them for Daddy too. Keep in mind, that we grafted a lot of camellias back in the day. At one point, we had well over 2000 wide mouth gallon jars.

One of my “not so favorite” memories was from the winter months during grafting season when I was a kid. Daddy grafted them, and I had the joy of washing all those jars ahead of grafting season for him. I always remember it being so cold when I was washing those jars. My poor little hands were always about to freeze off, but the grafting had to go on cold or not quite so cold!

The wide mouth jar in the picture came from the old Solomon Gardens in Savannah. It was actually one of the jars that Judge Solomon had used to graft his camellias. The Judge’s granddaughter Jan Vandenbulk recently gave me the ones still left from Solomon Gardens, and I gladly found good use for them. That experience brought back a lot of fun memories from days gone by with wide mouth gallon jars!

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.

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