The Hammond Camellia Garden tells the story of the discovery and development of the Camellia genus, which is one of the most popular ornamental plants in New Zealand gardens.
Camellias are native to East Asia and began to be introduced to the West in the early 1700s. Linnaeus named the genus in honour of George Joseph Kamel, a Jesuit missionary to the Philippines. The most famous member of the genus is probably the tea plant (C. sinensis). The tender growing tips of this species are picked and dried or cured to produce tea. The commercial scale of tea growing is vast: over 4 billion tonnes is picked worldwide every year.
Most ornamental varieties are bred from C. japonica, C. sasanqua and C. reticulata. Notable species in the Hammond Camellia Garden include the fascinating yellow C. impressinervis.