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The Camellia Collection

The camellia shrub enchants all who gaze upon it due to its hardiness, the wide variety of colors and shapes of its flowers, the beauty of its persistent foliage, and its longevity. The Camellia genus, the largest of the Theaceae family, includes about 260 species, and there are currently about 20,000 registered cultivars.

The Camellia Collection

The plant of the gods that adorns gardens

Camellias, revered as religious symbols in China and Japan, were historically cultivated in temple gardens and sacred spaces. The penchant for camellias as ornamental plants traces back to this era and their prominent role in these environments.

While there is remarkable diversity among camellias, only a select few have gained widespread popularity as ornamental garden plants. These include Camellia japonica, Camellia reticulata, Camellia sasanqua, and Camellia saluenensis. Over time, numerous cultivars and hybrids have emerged through crossings with these species and less common ones.

In art, literature, and beauty rituals

Camellias were very popular in European art and literature of the nineteenth century. 

The oil was a geisha's secret, cherished for its ability to bestow stunning skin and lustrous hair, enhancing their immaculate appearance.


For an extended period, Camellia sinensis leaves were also used in culinary practices for tea production.

In art, literature, and beauty rituals

The Camellia arrives in Portugal

Camellias may have been introduced to Portugal in the sixteenth century, but their widespread cultivation only became common in the nineteenth century.

Camellias are scattered throughout the archipelago, with São Miguel hosting the largest number of parks and gardens featuring these plants. On the island, camellias serve as ornamental plants, hedges for land division, and windbreaks. 

The Camellia arrives in Portugal

A flower with various shades

The camellia, whether in tree or shrub form, with green and dark foliage and a diverse array of fruits in varying sizes, shapes, and hues. Its flowers showcase an enchanting spectrum of colors, ranging from white and cream to pink, red, yellow, or even blends of these shades.

As for shape, camellias are single or simple (flat, bowl- or cup-shaped,) semi-double, double, with Anemone, Peony, or Rose forms.

A flower with various shades

The Camellia Collection in numbers

  • Families



  • Genera



  • Species



  • Subspecies



  • Varieties



  • Cultivars



The Camellia Collection at Terra Nostra Garden

Started by the head gardener in 2004, it is one of Europe's largest and most complete collections.

The camellias of Terra Nostra Garden, with ideal conditions for their cultivation, are distributed in different areas, blending harmoniously into the landscape to showcase the entire collection. 

The Camellia Garden encompasses four distinct sections, each dedicated to specific varieties of the main species: Camellia japonica, Camellia reticulata, Camellia sasanqua, and hybrid plants

Blooming begins in the fall and lasts for about six months. This collection enchants visitors all year, peaking between October and December for Camellia sasanqua, between January and April for Camellia japonica, and between February and March for Camellia reticulata.

The variety of species in our gardens

Camellia sasanqua is a plant well adapted to the soil and climate of the Azores and quickly forms large shrubs or small trees with dark and shiny green foliage and fragrant white flowers or various shades of pink.

Camellia japonica is represented in the Garden by cultivars imported from China, such as Alba Plena, Variegata, and Althaeiflora, and cultivars imported from Japan, such as Hagoromo and the emblematic Masayoshi. Several Portuguese, Australian, and New Zealand cultivars are also present.

Camellia reticulata is known for the complexity of obtaining new plants, yet when it happens, the flowers are large and magnificent, with pink tones, dark pink, and red.

The genesis of new cultivars

Since 2002, Terra Nostra Garden has actively participated in the annual Furnas Camellia Expo. This event provides a platform to showcase the latest acquisitions and classic cultivars of camellias. 

One of the Garden's team goals is the genesis of new cultivars through hybridization techniques to increase the morphological diversity of plants. Today, numerous hybrids can be found, with flowers of various colors, shapes, sizes, and perfumes.

The genesis of new cultivars

An award-winning Collection

In 1996, during an exhibition in Ponta Delgada, the Garden received a top award for the best hybrid camellia for Camellia x williamsii 'Brigadoon'.

In 2014, the International Camellia Society attributed Terra Nostra Garden to the prestigious Camellia Garden of Excellence award, recognizing the unique quality of its collection and acknowledging the exceptional quality of its collection and the dedication of its team.

In 2017, at the Camellia Expo in Porto, one of the most important in Europe, Terra Nostra Garden showcased Camellia nitidissima flowers and was honored with the 1st prize.



An award-winning Collection
  • Did you know...

    The Camellia L. genus, the largest in the Theaceae family, was baptized by the Swedish botanist Linnaeus? 

    The Camellia L., the largest member of the Theaceae family, is originally from the East and was named by Swedish botanist Linnaeus in 1735. Linnaeus based this on the plant descriptions by German doctor Kaempfer from 1712, who had traveled to China and Japan. In choosing the name, Linnaeus decided to honor Georg Jossef Kamel, an Austrian Jesuit missionary who worked in the Philippines. 


    Artificial hybridization introduces traits from different species into one species? 

    The search for new varieties of genetically improved plants is a constant in scientific research. The same is true of camellias, with increasingly more cultivars and new hybrids emerging.  

    The flowers are bisexual, containing both female and male reproductive organs within the same bloom. This allows for self-pollination or cross-pollination through insects or wind. 
    Consequently, the resulting fruits' seeds can emerge from crossbreeding within the same species or even between different species or varieties.

    Hybridization between different species can occur naturally; however, as new species of the Camellia L. genus are being discovered, methodologies for artificial hybridization have been improved to introduce characteristics of other species. For example, the goal can be to increase flower perfume, develop new colors, get more disease-resistant plants and extreme temperatures, and change growth and flowering habits.

    That Camellias are plants that like hot summers and are resistant to frosts? 
    It is a plant of temperate climates that is resistant to light frosts and likes hot but not too dry summers. Rain in the summer and relatively high moisture levels are important. These plants are capable of tolerating climacteric conditions that are not always favorable and can resist many climate adversities. However, in temperate climate zones with no extreme temperatures, you can observe normal outdoor behavior in most varieties.

    Direct sunlight can harm Japonicas and hybrids, leading to leaf and flower burns. To prevent this, placing them in partial shade or a north-facing exposure is advisable.

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