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Manteca gardener wins big at Camellia Show
Marion Golisano of Manteca is congratulated by Peter Warner, president of the Modesto Camellia Society and chairman of the 52nd Camellia Show, for her two winning entries the Carters Sunburst which won first place, and the Pink Perfection which placed second in the amateur division. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

 Manteca gardener Marion Golisano was enjoying the luck of the Irish over the weekend. Her good luck came not for having come from the clover country but for having something that comes to her naturally – a green thumb.

For the first time, Golisano decided to enter in the 52nd annual Modesto Camellia Show. She brought in three entries from the camellia shrubs growing on the northeast side of her Garnet Place home in Manteca. As luck would have it, all of her three entries which she entered in the amateur division were accepted and put on display during the two-day Camellia Cavalcade event held Saturday and Sunday, March 16-17, in Modesto. That alone was honor enough for Golisano, a member of the Manteca Garden Club, given that hundreds of entries are submitted to the show every year, many of them from growers of this winter-flowering plant.

But the icing on the cake for the Family City’s amateur gardener came when it was revealed that two of her camellias won prizes. Her Carter’s Sunburst won first place, and her Pink Perfection came in second. Her third entry was the Marie Bracy variety. It was the show judges who identified the varieties that she brought to the competition. She didn’t even know what they were called, Golisano said laughing.

Golisano said neither she nor her husband planted the mature camellias in their garden. They were already there when they purchased the house, she said.

Camellia growers pay particular attention to a lot of growing techniques to produce the best blossoms. Some even keep their soil formulas and other growing practices top secret to give them an edge at the next competition, Modesto Camellia Society president and show chairman Peter Warner explained during a presentation at last month’s Manteca Garden Club meeting.

But as far as Golisano is concerned, she thinks the sun and shade exposure are the reasons her camellias perform their best and not because of any special TLC that she or her husband bestows on their flowering plant specimens.

The spectacular camellia event was aptly held in the dramatic Palm Court of the E. & J. Gallo Administration Building of the Gallo Winery. The courtyard with palm trees all around and colorful koi swimming in the ponds beneath the fronds provided the equally spectacular backdrop for the scores of camellia blossoms displayed for the many gardeners, growers and admirers of this highly versatile and diversified winter rose sans the thorns.

The more than a dozen Manteca Garden Club members who attended the show, which included president and vice president Rita Canales and Paula Elias, respectively, were given a personal tour of the displays by Warner who gave them pointers on what the judges usually look for in an entry. Afterwards, some members of the group shopped for potted camellias that the Camellia Society was selling outside as part of their fund-raiser. Later, a few club members took a hike at the mile-long meandering trail around the Gallo Administration building to admire the thousand-or-so camellias growing along the cement walkways sheltered by ancient native oaks, the rolling lawns and other native species native to the area. The camellia species, the majority of which were blooming – they included the ultra showy red Yosemite, the C. japonica Elegans Splendor, and the C. hybrid Mabel Bryan that astounded many with its solid-colored and variegated blossoms from just one plant – were donated and planted by the Camellia Society of Modesto. The Society sponsors the annual show which is considered one of the best of its kind throughout the United States.