FORT VALLEY, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Camellias have been a staple at Massee Lane Gardens for almost 80 years, and every year about this time, they're in full bloom, primed and ready for the annual Festival of Camellias.
Part of the month-long celebration is the Middle Georgia Camellia Society's Annual Show.
"This year, mother nature has not been real kind to us," says the show's chairman, John Gamble. "We're hoping for 1,000-1,500 blooms. Sometimes, it has gone as high as 2,000 blooms."
A team of judges gets the task of inspecting all those blooms.
"We have out of town judges," says the Atlantic Coast Director for the American Camellia Society, Warren Thompson. "We don't use our local judges, and they'll come in on Friday night."
"The first thing they look at is condition to see that the flower has not been damaged or hurt by freeze or rain," says Gamble. "Then, they look for conformance to the specifications. Each flower has a nomenclature, which describes the form, the color and the condition. We look for flowers that really conform to that nomenclature."
For those of us who aren't professionals when it comes to flowers, there's even a novice category.
"If you've got a few old Camellias in your yard, or you don't know what they are, but you think they're old Aunt Susies, cut them, bring them out here between 7 and 10 on Saturday," says Gamble. "We'll help you to identify them, show you how to prep them and how to get them in the show."
"In Fort Valley, just about half the houses have Camellias in the yard," says Thompson, laughing. "But they don't take care of them, and they don't bring them to the show."
The show is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Massee Lane Gardens in Fort Valley.
If you want to enter, get there between 7 and 10 on Saturday morning. Judging starts after that and the flowers are open for viewing from 1 until 4:30 p.m. on both days.
It's free to enter or just to come look at all the flowers, and there will be cash prizes for the show's top winners.