Camellias are the stars of the winter garden – and for four Western Bay of Plenty sisters it’s the time of year when their family name is in the spotlight.
Trevor Lennard, who began farming in the Papamoa Hills in 1937, was also a well-known breeder of Jersey cows and pigs, and it was his interest in creating new bloodlines which finally won him over to camellias.
“Mum went on a trip to New Plymouth and came back with 12 camellias,” daughter Caroll Anderton says. “She nagged him to go to a meeting of the camellia society and he resisted for quite a while, but when he did get involved he found he loved camellias and could use his breeding skills.”
Trevor named most of his creations after family members – Alisha Carter (japonica), Debbie Anderton (reticulata) and Beth Lennard (sasanqua) among them. Trevor bred and named 24 varieties of camellia from Gay Sue (sasanqua) in 1980 to Caroll Lennard (japonica) in 1994, released just a year before his death.
The flowers of Nick Carter and Liz Carter, both japonicas, regularly win prizes at shows in the United States, while Gay Sue is acknowledged as the best-performing white sasanqua in Dunedin Botanic Gardens.
Caroll and her sister Ailsa James still run their father’s nursery as a wholesale and mail-order business. It also supplies plants to Lennard’s Orchard and Nursery shop on the corner of State Highway 2 and Poplar Lane, run by two more sisters, Marilyn Fraser and Liz Carter.
Much of Trevor’s success came from using two plants bred by Howard Asper of the United States and registered in 1966 – Flower Girl and Dream Girl. Trevor crossed Flower Girl with reticulata Nuccio’s Ruby to produce Phillipa Lennard and with reticulata Carl Tourje for Trevor Lennard, both named in 1991.
Dream Girl, meanwhile, was crossed with a reticulata for the large-
flowered Gael’s Dream (1984) and with a seedling for Emma L (1993).
Trevor’s widow Alison passed away this year, until recently living in the house he built in 1954. Caroll laughingly points to the garden’s concrete fence.
“Once he got going with camellias that was it. In desperation he made a concrete fence after they’d extended the garden once, but then he started planting down by the roadside – at one time the camellias were five deep down there.”
There’s still enough space on the property for about 900 camellias, as well as the nursery where Caroll and Ailsa raise 3000 cuttings a year, plus grafted plants.
Both sisters have been bitten by the camellia bug – Ailsa attended an international camellia conference in Cornwall in 2008, while Caroll is long-time convenor of the 46-year-old Western Bay Camellia Society. Both are show judges and both regularly place at the national show.
Caroll has bred one camellia herself – Carolyn Anderton, a cross between Jury’s Joy and Weeping Maiden.
This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission. It has been updated slightly.