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Late winter wonders: Ways to enjoy early blooms and bring home some floral cheer

A camellia show, a display of orchids and more brighten the waning days of winter

There are always some tantalizing days of sunny weather this time of year, when it seems like spring has arrived, no matter what the calendar says. But chilly temperatures and cloudy skies can still come sneaking back at a moment's notice.

Though we won't have to wait much longer for spring's official kickoff, some flowers, like camellias, haven't waited around for the vernal equinox to start strutting their stuff. Other plants, like many orchids, are indoor-dwellers and add a colorful touch of nature to interior spaces — much needed in the wintertime. Either way, now is a prime time to enjoy these flowers. Here are some opportunities to celebrate winter blooms and indulge in a little early spring fever.

Where to catch camellias

At a glance, camellias, with their masses of buttery soft petals, don't seem all that hardy. But these evergreen plants are tough enough to bloom in winter, sometimes as early as December, and bring a spot of drama and color to the gloomiest season, with blooms ranging from white to deep pinks and near-reds, as well as variegated pink-and-white flowers. And the Midpeninsula offers plenty of places to enjoy them.

Camellia Flower Show & Plant Sale

Saturday, Feb. 15, 12:30-4 p.m. (show); 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (sale) and Sunday, Feb. 16, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (show and sale)

Community Activities Building, 1400 Roosevelt Ave., Redwood City

The San Francisco Peninsula Camellia Society hosts its 59th annual show and sale, featuring hundreds of camellias on display and for sale. The event also includes workshops with camellia experts and a photography exhibit.

Admission is free. For more information, contact or visit

Other places to see camellias

If you can't make the show, the Midpeninsula offers a number of spots where you can take in some blooms — many of which have been donated by the San Francisco Peninsula Camellia Society, according to its website.

Stanford University boasts a collection of dozens of camellias from the collection of a late society member, including a number of rare hybrids. The plants are located near Memorial Church.

Among other local spots, the society has donated camellias to Atherton's Holbrook Palmer Park and the San Mateo Arboretum.

Gamble Garden in Old Palo Alto is home to roughly 60 varieties of camellia, some donated by the society and others that were purchased by Elizabeth Gamble herself, according to the Gamble Garden website.

Orchids and art

Until frosty nights are no more, outdoor blossoms will be somewhat scarce, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some beautiful blooms in the great indoors — either real or conjured through your own creativity.

Orchids at Filoli

Through Feb. 24

86 Cañada Road, Woodside

While the Filoli estate's sprawling outdoor gardens are mostly dormant, the historic mansion has made the most of "indoor weather" with a display of orchids and related classes and events. This weekend, in addition to catching an exhibit of orchids in the house, (including an archway in the foyer created from orchids), visitors can create their own vision of the flowers in a Chinese brush painting class focused on painting orchids. The class takes place Saturday, Feb. 15, 10 a.m. and the fee is $105 per person and includes all materials.

Also on Saturday, Feb. 15, 9 a.m., the American Orchid Society holds its monthly regional judging event at Filoli. The event not only offers the opportunity to learn what qualities make for a prize-winning orchid and see top specimens in person, but also to get information and expert advice on growing orchids. Free with Filoli admission.

Filoli admission is $22 adults; $18 seniors (65+); $15 student, teacher, military; $11 children (5-17 years old); free to children (under 5 years old). For more information, call 650-364-8300 or visit

Orchid repotting

Sunday, Feb. 23, 9 a.m.

SummerWinds Nursery, 725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto

Got an orchid that's outgrown its digs? Though orchids can seem finicky, and it might be tempting to leave well enough alone, this workshop covers the basics of repotting a common variety of orchid, a Phalaenopsis, and aims to make the process easy to understand. Learn the best practices for repotting orchids.

Free. For more information, call 650-493-5136 or register at

Botanical block prints

Saturday, Feb. 29, 9:30 a.m.

Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverley St., Palo Alto

Create a flower that will always be in bloom at a workshop highlighting how to create a block print featuring local flora. Artist Charles Woodruff Coates leads this class, where you will learn how to draw simple botanical shapes and transform them into stamps, which will then be used to create prints. To spark your imagination, the class begins with a tour of the gardens at the historic Gamble home.

$45 nonmembers/ $35 members. For more information, call 650-329-1356 or visit

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