Massee Lane Gardens hosts Festival of Camellias

awoolen@macon.comFebruary 26, 2014 

FORT VALLEY -- When it comes to flowers, Camille Bielby speaks to them as if they have voices of their own.

As the multimedia specialist for the American Camellia Society at Massee Lane Gardens, she has plenty of opportunity for conversations.

Bielby came to the society a year ago and is in the midst of the annual Festival of Camellias, which runs through March.

The American Camellia Society is hosting a series of lectures and workshops during the monthlong celebration. Tom Johnson, executive director of Magnolia Plantation and former horticulturist at American Camellia Society, spoke during a workshop Feb. 19 on azalea care.

The American Camellia Society’s show, held this past weekend, featured growers from throughout the Southeast.

Massee Lane Gardens has been the home of the American Camellia Society since 1968, according to its website, The gardens contain more than 4,000 varieties of camellia on its 120 acres.

“Whatever your taste, there is a camellia for you,” Bielby said.

The gardens also have a Japanese water garden, a bog pond, a children’s garden and a walking trail.

Near the pond are carnivorous plants that came from the personal collection of William Khoury, horticulturist for the American Camellia Society. There are pitcher plants, sun dews and Venus fly traps.

Khoury has been volunteering at the gardens since the mid ‘90s and was hired in 2006 as the horticulturist.

Jean Feitshans has been volunteering at the gardens each Wednesday for four years. She donated a mule palm tree for the children’s garden.

The palm, which can reach 40 feet, got the mule name because “it’s a hybrid, and it’s sterile,” Feitshans said.

The focus at Massee Lane Gardens, however, remains on the camellia.

Because of the different varieties of each type of flower, the gardens are in bloom from August until April, Bielby said. The peak season is February and March.

“There’s something blooming all the time,” she said.

Remaining events for the Festival of Camellias include a 1 p.m. lecture Wednesday by John Gamble of the Middle Georgia Camellia Soceity. He will give a presentation on “The Finest American Porcelain Art Sculptures.”

Also, at 11 a.m. March 15, guests may shop and browse fashions and accessories from Abreannes before a fashion show at noon. Models will showcase dressy, office and casual attire. A luncheon, catered by Michelle Allen Catering, will follow at 1 p.m. Tickets are $25, and advance reservations are required.

For more information, visit or email To schedule a professionally guided tour, make reservations or order a boxed lunch, call 877-422-6355.

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