Blooming camellias bring touch of spring to Planting Fields

Gabriella Giugliano, 7, of Massapequa, left, and Daniel Gabriella Giugliano, 7, of Massapequa, left, and Daniel Arguelles, 4, of New Hyde Park, takes some time to sniff Camellias on Feb. 23, 2014 in Oyster Bay. There are more than 200 camellia shrubs and trees blooming at the Camellia House at Planting Fields Arboretum. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Flower enthusiasts came out in droves Sunday to get a glimpse of the blooming camellias and a touch of spring at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay.

Visitors, many touching and snapping pictures of the shrubs' colorful blossoms, strolled the paths in the Camellia House.

The greenhouse is part of the arboretum at the 409-acre state park, once the Gold Coast estate of insurance magnate William R. Coe and his wife, Mai Rogers Coe, an heir to the Standard Oil fortune.

Gardening enthusiast Bob Johnson, 71, who was already checking out the scenery at the park when he stumbled onto the fifth annual festival, was among those taking photos.

"I find this park interesting [in] all four seasons," Johnson of St. James said. "I'm surprised they bloomed so early this year with the snow."

Humidity levels in the greenhouse are kept about 100 percent and temperatures at 80 degrees, protecting camellias from freezing temperatures.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Helen Rusch, who hadn't visited the flowers in full bloom in five years, said the sunny morning was the perfect time to do so.

"They're beautiful, nice flowers. I appreciate them," said Rusch, 70, of Seaford. "But only a few of them have an aroma."

The annual Camellia House Weekend, expected to draw more than 5,000 visitors, was sponsored by the Planting Fields Foundation and Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, said Vincent A. Simeone, park director.

The foundation operates the property, which includes Coe Hall, a 65-room Tudor Revival mansion.

The Coe family imported the camellias as a collection in 1916, as was typical of wealthy landowners who collected diverse plants, Simeone said. He added that most of them originate in Asia, but some are found in Europe.

Most of the camellias in the greenhouse were Japanese species, which organizers described as the most colorful and vibrant of the shrubs. Others species there included the reticulata, a large tender plant, and sasanqua, a smaller leaf, organizers said.

The Camellia House weekend is a "family event that is educational and brings people out and inside the garden," Simeone said.

He also gave a historical lesson to a group of visitors at the festival informing them camellias have a rich history and are related to tea plants, from which drinking tea comes from.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Coming here gives you great exposure to plants. They're awesome. I try to come every year. This is a parklike setting," said Jeff Stiklickas, 56, of Franklin Square.

The best of Newsday everyday in your inbox. Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

You also may be interested in: