On five acres along Elk Creek near Tiller, Ore., a sharp eye can spot more than 50 varieties of camellias, a plant native to Japan, Korea, and China that became popular in the U.S. South in the late 1700s. French botanist Andre Michaux presented the first imported camellia to South Carolina Gov. Henry Middleton in 1786. That parent plant is still used to propagate others. As the new plant made its way across the United States, Alabama chose the camellia as its state flower.
Ernie and Grace Dahack from Eagle Point selected camellia plants from Southern Oregon and Northern California to establish an arboretum near Tiller in the mid-1940s. After the couple died in the early1970s, the Dahack Gardens fell into neglect. Caretaker Doug Roberts says a new partnership is reviving the garden’s glory. As volunteers remove brush and thin trees, visitors may also discover multiple varieties of holly, lilac and magnolia. The gardens offer free admission during this year’s peak bloom season on the second and fourth weekends of April and the first weekend of May. Flower lovers may also visit the Glide Wildflower Show this year on the last weekend of April.
Sources: Sheets, Brady. E-mail message to the author. 5 Mar 2014; Roberts, Doug. Telephone interview with author. 10 March 2014.