Press Release

The full press release about the newly announced annual Camellia Festival at Chiswick House and Gardens

Chiswick House Celebrates Camellias

Queen Of The Winter Flowers On Show In Restored 19th Century Conservatory

8 December 2010

Following the £12 million restoration of Chiswick House Gardens, Chiswick House and Gardens Trust will launch the first Chiswick House Camellia Festival running from 19 February – 20 March 2011.   

The Chiswick House Camellia collection is a national treasure, probably the oldest in the western world, containing rare and historically important examples of these beautiful plants. The collection is housed in the recently restored Grade I listed Conservatory at Chiswick House Gardens. Designed by Samuel Ware for the Sixth Duke of Devonshire and completed in 1813, it is a spectacular landmark within the Gardens. Ninety-six metres long, with a glazed dome at its centre and glass pavilions at either end, it was a forerunner of those designed by Decimus Burton at Kew and Sir Joseph Paxton at Chatsworth.

Exotic and expensive, the Camellia, known as the Queen of the Winter Flowers, was highly prized when it first became available to British gardeners in the late 18th century. In 1828 the Conservatory was planted with a large number of Camellias. Most of these original trees survive today and are exceptionally rare, flowering every March with a fabulous array of blooms, pink, red, white and striped. The collection includes one of the world’s rarest Camellias, Middlemist’s Red, thought to be one of only two surviving examples in the world, the other is in New Zealand.

Middlemist’s Red was originally brought to Britain from China in 1804 by Londoner John Middlemist, a nurseryman from Shepherds Bush. It is believed to have been presented by one of his descendants to Chiswick sometime after 1823 as the Sixth Duke added to his growing collection of camellias. Despite its name, the plant blooms a deep pink and is normally in full bloom during the months of February and March. These extraordinary plants were in danger of being lost as the conservatory fell into ruin in the last years of the 20th century, but members of the International Camellia Society stepped in to tend them, ensuring their survival prior to the major restoration of Chiswick House Gardens, completed in June 2010.

Visitors to the Chiswick House Camellia Festival will be the first to enjoy this superb display in its restored setting. They will have full access to the Conservatory glass house and historic camellia collection with specialist guides from Chiswick House and Gardens Trust and the International Camellia Society on hand to provide information and expert guidance on how to choose and grow Camellias. There will be a free illustrated brochure available to all visitors detailing the history and development of Camellias. A carefully chosen selection of Camellia plants and Camellia associated products will be on sale during the Festival.

Media Enquiries

Jane Quinn/Catherine Yazhari 020 7221 5000

The Chiswick House Camellia Festival 2011
Chiswick House Gardens, London W4 2QN
Advance bookings and information:
Tickets £5 including free Camellia guide
Group Bookings (in advance only)10% discount on groups of 10 or more, maximum 25.
Special group tours for up to 25 people with expert guide including private access to the former gardeners bothy and potting sheds £50
Group Booking forms and access information:
Or Tel: 0208 742 3905

Conservatory opening hours: Daily 10 am – 3 pm
Admission to Chiswick House Gardens is free from dawn to dusk every day including the newly restored19th century Italian Garden providing the setting for the Conservatory, which, during the Camellia Festival, will be planted with spring flowers.

Notes on the Chiswick House Camellia collection

Camellias have been grown in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam as a garden plant for thousands of years. The name of ‘Camellia’ was given to the genus in the 18th century, in honour of Georg Josef Kamel, a Moravian Jesuit apothecary and botanist, who worked in the Far East.

The Camellias that grow at Chiswick are all of the species japonica. The original collection was ordered by William Lindsay, the 6th Duke’s Head Gardener, from Alfred Chandler’s Vauxhall nursery. The number and name of all the varieties were not detailed but visitors’ descriptions include references to varieties of C.japonica such as Alba Plena, Fimbriata, Lady Granton, Lady Hume’s Blush, Woodsii, Beali (now Beali Rosea), Nobilissama, Imbricata and Chandleri Elegans. Today’s Conservatory collection of 33 different varieties, includes many of the earliest varieties introduced to Britain. Using stem girth as an approximate guide it is probable that the camellias identified as japonica Variegata, Imbricata, ChandlerI, Anemoniflora, Alba Plena, Pompone, Rosea, Aitonia, Corallina, Rubra Plena and Rubra, are all from the original 1828 planting.

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Chiswick House Camellias Press Release
8 December 2010 press release about the Chiswick Camellia festival
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