For many years I have been a camellia lover. Until recently, this has been a lonely hobby for a gardener living in Norway. In this part of the world, the camellia has been known as an indoor plant, difficult to grow even indoors. My dream of enjoying «red camellias blooming in the snow» in Norway, however, came to life when I wrote the poem «Camellia», part of a collection by that title. Within a short time I started planning for the project «The Camellia Moves North».
Changing attitudes might prove the biggest challenge. Most people, included Norwegians, hold tight to the assumption that Norway is so far north that it will be too cold to even think of growing camellias. Because of this alleged fact, nurseries and garden centers have sold camellias as indoor plants, sometimes under the name C. japonica or C. williamsii, but most often just «Camellia». Determined to meet my dream, I started searching for hobby gardeners in my hometown of Stavanger who might have planted a camellia outdoors in spite of the advice from the nurseries. An article in the local paper produced 17 names for my list of gardeners already growing camellias outdoors in my neighborhood.
Knowingly or not, my neighbors had taken advantage of local microclimates suitable for the plant. The Norwegian coastline is close to the end of the Gulf Stream, producing a number of microclimates among sheltered places along the fjords — some not unlike places in the mid-Atlantic states. The oldest plant I found, 16 years old and 4 meters (13 feet) tall, is a Camellia japonica hybrid which blooms every year in profusion in mid-April.
Stavanger, Norway 4.December 2005: Eli Margrete S. Stølsvik printed in American Camellia Society yearbook 2006.