Ready to see some beautiful blooms in Modesto? There’s a show coming up for you

Camellia Society of Modesto members voted for their favorite flowers in advance of the 2018 camellia show. The public show returns this weekend.
Camellia Society of Modesto members voted for their favorite flowers in advance of the 2018 camellia show. The public show returns this weekend.

Now is peak season for blooming camellias and Modestans can get their fill of the lavish floral beauties next weekend.

The 58th annual Camellia Show, presented by the Camellia Society of Modesto, returns to its longtime stomping grounds, the E&J Gallo Winery Administration Building and adjacent gardens, on Saturday and Sunday, March 16-17.

“They’re the great winter flower,” Camellia Society President Kim Bardsley said, “the unsung hero of the dreary days.”

This year’s show will be dedicated to the memory of Dwight “Doc” Wait, who passed away in December, Bardsley said.

Wait was one of 48 founding members of the Camellia Society of Modesto, formed in 1961 as a sort of offshoot of the Modesto Garden Club. He was the club’s first president and was chairman of the first Modesto Camellia Show.

Now in its 58th incarnation, visitors to the free show can expect a variety of blooms on display after judging takes place Saturday morning. There also will be 400 camellia plants available for purchase, including several rare varieties.

Some will come from Nuccio, a nursery in Altadena that specializes in rare camellias and azaleas, Bardsley said. Most of the plants available next weekend will be camellias, but a few azaleas also will be available.

The show has averaged about 2,000 visitors each year. For the past five decades, it’s been held at the Gallo administration building, the only time the park-like winery grounds are open for free to the public.

People who attend the show are encouraged to take the 1-mile walk through the grounds, which feature 1,000 camellias, other plants and lakes — as well as several peacocks that visitors might find themselves roaming alongside.

Some of the club’s more knowledgeable members will offer informational tours through the Gallo grounds. It’s heavy blooming season for camellias right now and recent rains have not hampered the beauty, Bardsley said. “They still are blooming.”

Members of the public who want to enter their blooms for judging are encouraged to take their flowers to the administration building from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, where they can get supplies and help setting up their displays, Bardsley said.

Because it’s an American Camellia Society-sanctioned show, people must know what variety of camellia they’re showing and must have grown it themselves.

The public is invited to view from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the E&J Administration Building, 600 Yosemite Blvd, Modesto. For more, see

Pat Clark covers entertainment and other stories for The Modesto Bee. She attended California State University, Stanislaus, and grew up in Modesto.
Support my work with a digital subscription