VIBRANT BEAUTY: Some of the couple's freshly picked camellia blooms.
VIBRANT BEAUTY: Some of the couple's freshly picked camellia blooms.

Take a trip around the world with camellias

A BANKER knows better than anyone that money doesn't grow on trees, but that didn't stop Darryl Baptie buying a camellia nursery when he left the financial world 21 years ago.

He and his wife Steph run Camellia Glen Nursery at Palmwoods, on the Sunshine Coast, and are bringing their expertise along with about 70 varieties across 200 plants to this year's Toowoomba Camellia Show and Garden Expo over the weekend of July 20-21.

"There will be plants there that people have never seen or haven't seen for a long time, I'm certain of that," Darryl said.

Darryl is the Australian Camellia Society president and a director of the International Camellia Society, and his business focuses on collecting and propagating unusual, rarely seen and older varieties of camellias.

He and Steph take all their own cuttings to propagate and grow, specialising in plants from private Southeast Queensland gardens, knowing they are tough enough to flourish in this climate.

They recently supplied 100 plants to the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.

Darryl is one of four guest speakers at this year's Toowoomba event, which will also feature ABC Gardening Australia presenters Sophie Thomson and Jerry Coleby-Williams, as well as local horticulturist Brian Sams.

This year's theme is Around the World in a Camellia Extravaganza, with the camellia hall divided into Asian, American, Australasian and European displays, giving a clear guide to as to where our current camellias originated.

Darryl said the camellia held a lot of appeal, including coming in thousands of attractive colours and varieties, being remarkably hardy, drought-resistant, and thriving in any position as long as the soil was well-drained and slightly acidic.

They are also long-lived, with overseas camellias 200-300 years old, and capable of surprising growers by "throwing" different colours or converting a stamen to petaloids to produce a much fuller flower.

While Darryl and Steph are in the process of "transitioning to retirement", Darryl said they loved their work and would keep going as long as they were physically able to do so.

Their goal is to "get as many different varieties in people's gardens as we can", currently growing about 350 different types of camellia.

"Some old gardens may have the only plant of that variety that we know of, so it's very important to be able to propagate them and keep them going," he said.

One such example is Gerda's Gem, a pink double sasanqua, bred and registered many years ago by a man now aged in his 90s, in suburban Brisbane, and named after his mother.

The man's daughter contacted Camellia Glen Nursery recently saying how much it would mean to her father to see the plant grown in other people's gardens.

Darryl has been able to produce 30 Gerda's Gem plants from cuttings, which will be available to Queensland Camellia Society members, with one bush even among those going to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

The biggest camellia display in Queensland also includes general gardening advice, plants products and demonstrations, music and entertainment.

It runs from 9am each day at the Toowoomba TAFE campus.

Proceeds donated to the produce stall go directly to Toowoomba Hospice, as do other funds raised.

To donate produce, phone: Brian Shackleton, 0746359381.

More info: toowoomba or phone: Kevin Cotterell on


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