One of the most impressive camellia gardens in the state is located between Hammond and Robert at the Hammond Research Station. This two-acre garden located under towering pine trees features more than 450 named varieties and about 200 unnamed seedlings or unidentifiable varieties of Camellia japonicas (best known as camellias) and Camellia sasanquas (best known as sasanquas). Most of the camellias in this collection were planted in the late 1930s through the early 1950s.
The collection was planted by W. F. “Hody” Wilson Jr., superintendent of the station from the mid-1930s until 1975. Mr. Wilson was internationally known for his camellia breeding during his time at the station. The two most well-known selections of Mr. Wilson's are Mansize and Jerry Wilson. Many of the camellias in this collection are from Mr. Wilson’s breeding program and may be the only ones of their kind.
In 1999, the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners took on the cleanup and maintenance of the garden as a project. Susan Spiller, a resident of Hammond until her death in 2001, was an enthusiastic Master Gardener who spent many hours cleaning up and caring for the camellias. A memorial camellia, Sweet Jane, was planted in the garden in 2002 in her memory.
The Camellia Garden will now continue at the Hammond Research Station because of an effort to provide educational and research support for the growing commercial landscape industry in the Florida Parishes. A map of the garden and the propagation of the camellias are ongoing projects.In 2008, the American Camellia Society started an innovative new American Camellia Trail that lists camellia collections of interest from all over the United States. We were invited to participate. The W.F. " Hody" Wilson Garden is now listed and is one of the Founding Gardens.To visit the Hody Wilson Garden, plan to attend the annual Camellia Stroll, co-sponsored with the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners, held on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, from 1-4 p.m. The public is welcome to walk the forest path and view glorious blooms of named and one-of-a-kind varieties of camellias.
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