Press Release

The full press release about the second annual Camellia Festival at Chiswick 18 February - 18 March 2012


Date of issue: 28 November 2011

Chiswick House and Gardens Trust will bring a burst of glorious colour to the winter season with the second annual Camellia Festival running from 18th February to 18th March 2012 (Press Preview: Thursday 16th February).

This year's festival celebrates these beautiful blooms in the setting of the spectacular Chiswick Gardens Conservatory designed by Samuel Ware in 1813. To complement the Festival, the newly restored Italian Garden, created for the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1814, has been replanted with an early display of Spring flowers. The early 19th Century Italian Garden was at the cutting edge of horticultural fashion and extravagant gardening.

The Chiswick House Camellia collection, housed in the conservatory, is a national treasure and probably the oldest in the Western world. It includes rare and historically important examples of these beautiful plants, with a fabulous array of blooms; pink, red, white and striped. Many of these are descended from the original planting in 1828. Among these is the unique Middlemist's Red, originally brought to Britain from China in 1804 by Londoner John Middlemist, a nurseryman from Shepherds Bush. It is one of only two in the world known to exist - the other being in Waitangi in New Zealand.

New features for the festival in 2012 include the replanting of the Italian Garden; new Camellia displays by specialist nursery Trehane and experts on hand to advise on every aspect of Camellias and how to grow them.

To complement the Festival, the shop will be selling special Camellia inspired merchandise, as well as a range of varieties of Camellia Plants.  The award-winning café will be serving a delicious seasonal menu.  All profits raised help to support Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, a registered charity dedicated to the preservation and continued enhancement of the historic Chiswick House Gardens open free to the public from dawn to dusk everyday.

The Chiswick House Camellia Festival 2012 Chiswick House Gardens, London W4 2QN
Dates: 18 February -18 March 2012
Conservatory opening hours: Daily 10 am -4pm Chiswick House: exclusive 'Festival' weekend openings 10am - 4pm

Advance bookings and information:

Tickets £8 including free Camellia guide. 

For details of group bookings and specialist lecture tours email or tel: +44 (0) 20 8742 3905

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 C. 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', 'Welbankiana', 'Lady Granton', 'Lady Hume's Blush', 'Woodsii', 'Beali' (now 'Beali Rosea'), 'Nobilissima', 'Imbricata', 'Chandleri' and 'Elegans'. Today's Conservatory collection of 33 different varieties, which includes many of the earliest varieties introduced to Britain. Using stem girth as an approximate guide it is probable that the camellias identified as C. japonica 'Variegata', 'Imbricata', 'Chandleri',  'Alba Plena', 'Pompone', 'Aitonia', 'Corallina', 'Rubra Plena' and 'Rubra' are all from the original 1828 planting.

'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. The only other known plant of this variety is at the Treaty House, Waitangi, New Zealand.

These extraordinary plants were in danger of being lost as the conservatory fell into ruin in the last years of the 20th century, but three local 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.

Notes on the Conservatory and the Italian Garden

The Duke of Devonshire, the Batchelor Duke, purchased Moreton Hall estate in 1812 and promptly demolished the house, incorporating the grounds into his gardens at Chiswick House. He commissioned Samuel Ware to build a conservatory, 320 ft long and 16ft wide, which was completed in 1813.

The Duke also commissioned a young designer, Lewis Kennedy to lay out a semi-circular 'Italian' garden in front of the conservatory. Completed in 1814 the gardens represent an early example of the reintroduction of formal gardens to England.

The garden is characterised by its symmetrical formality and intricate pattern of flower beds. Stone urns on plinths are set against an enclosing semi-circular path.  The central path is flanked by copies of two magnificent Coadestone vases; the originals are now housed in the Conservatory.

The original shapes of the flower beds had eroded and these have now been restored to their 1880's design. The urns, plinths and vases have been repaired and a new framework for the wisteria installed.

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