Camellias bloom annually and many specimens are decades old. Despite their fragile appearance, they are extremely hardy perennial shrubs. But most years, the outstanding plant’s potential as a flowering ornamental fails because of that double-edged sword: Pacific Northwest rain.
The camellia blooms in a few saturated colors: red, pink, white, peppermint stripe, even yellow. Undaunted by the area’s occasionally fierce winters and scorching summer heat, the huge buds reliably produce flowers that resemble roses, scentless but stunning. What it lacks in showiness, the tough camellia makes up in vigor.
Every year, perfect flowers arrive early, sometimes blooming through the snow or a silver thaw. Inevitably, the combination of strong sunlight and spring rains destroys the flowers when they are at the height of their bloom; the once-glorious petals turn brown and fall, foiled by the early rainy season that suits the foliage.
Waxy evergreen leaves enable camellias to withstand our unpredictable northwest climate; they protect the shrub from insect pests and temperature extremes, while attractive flowers draw pollinators to the dawning spring bounty. Once you know tea is derived from the camellia, its reputation as a time-honored, dependable plant makes sense.
Compared to roses, those summer icons of infinite variety and aroma, the camellia is a steady, self-managing plant. It lacks variety of hue or a signature scent. But it’s no primadonna; it rarely needs pruning, dusting or babying and it won’t succumb to black spot or mildew. In rare spring seasons, it proves to the world what a superstar it is indeed.
Occasionally in the Portland area, where I live, camellias bloom a full cycle without being ruined by rain. Seeing their blooms I started thinking about inner beauty and resilience. That led me to reflect about the city that I love and my persistent, creative students.
We Northwesterners are as resilient as anyone. We are resourceful, proud and hard-working. We have a history of working together to solve problems, and we seek proactive solutions. Intent on leaving a positive legacy to future generations, we embody the positive ideals that come to mind when we hear environmentalist. We have made a habit of using our resources wisely to expand into nearly every sector of industry; we are national leaders in healthcare, education, science, renewable energy and manufacturing.
With our region’s natural beauty as our backdrop, we work the land to produce a unique array of foods and innovative products. Fresh fruits and vegetables, award-winning dairy products and exquisite wines combine to ensure that our local cuisine remains world-famous. Because our beautiful corner of the country attracts people from all over the globe, we create business partnerships that complement our spirit of forward thinking. We have always led by example, with strength of character and persistence through the setbacks. Our area has a reputation for compassion and optimism and a brighter future than any place I can think of.
We can all succeed if we remember that some things take time, and we are all capable of achieving the future’s bright promise: that we will shine like the hardy, indomitable camellia, with resilience despite the rain.