Gainesville Camellia Society---Florida


Waxing Camellia Flowers

by Jerry Hogsette

I was called recently by a lady who was interested in waxing camellias. This is a method for preserving camellias by dipping them in wax. An article was published not too long ago in one of the camellia journals, either the American Camellia Society (ACS), Gulf Coast, or the Atlantic Coast, on this very topic. I remember it vividly because I wondered why this old process was being reprinted again. Well, I looked and I looked, and I have yet to find the article! Maybe I just imagined it. Finally I found a section on waxing camellias in the book entitled "You Can Grow Camellias" by Mary Noble and Blanche Graham (1976, Dover Publications). This gave a very in-depth description of the waxing process, and is good reading if you can locate the book.

Still wanting to be sure and hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak, I called ACS and asked to speak with Betty Hotchkiss, the Head Judge for our 1998 camellia show. Betty did not remember any recent waxing articles (so I probably DID imagine it) and I did not ask her about the Noble and Graham book. However, she said that ACS had a fact sheet on the waxing process, and asked did I want a copy. "Yes, of course," I said,"yes." She said it was probably a good idea to run this information in our 'News Bulletin' (a thought which had not yet occurred to me), and I agreed. So the following is the official ACS method for waxing camellias:

5 lbs. Household Paraffin Wax
1.5 pints of mineral oil
Ice Water
Camellia blooms

Melt 5 lbs. of wax and 1.5 pints of mineral oil together in an electric wok at 138 degrees F. Do NOT overheat. Wax is flammable. Stir mixture thoroughly while heating. If the wax is too cool, the coating on the flowers will be thick and gummy. If it is too hot, the petals will scorch and turn brown almost immediately. Waxing camellias takes practice. Hold the flower by its stem and fold back the leaves to keep them out of the wax. To keep the shape of the flower, it must be dipped face down through the melted wax as fast as possible, using a single swooping motion from one side of the wok to the other. Wax must be deep enough that the flower does not touch the bottom of the wok. Quickly shake off as much excess wax as possible. Then plunge the flower face down into the ice water, swirling it around to keep the petals from sticking together. The flower should then be placed face up to drain on paper towels. The blooms are fragile and will begin to turn brown once the wax seal is broken. This browning may be disguised by spray painting the blooms.

The wax may be stored for future use by allowing it to cool and then breaking it into small pieces. These pieces may be kept in a plastic bag and remelted when needed.

That is the end of the ACS fact sheet. Now you may be asking yourself why in the world would anyone want to wax camellias? Well, to quote Noble and Graham's book, "Waxing camellias provides a beautiful porcelain effect and also preserves the flowers for several days longer than their natural life span." They also state that "fluffy semi-doubles and the singles take to waxing better than formal doubles or rose-form doubles with tight centers. Flowers must be fresh, but they need not be conditioned in water. Wilted or damaged flowers will not be improved by waxing. Waxed blooms are magnificent on a silver tray on a coffee table. You can float waxed blooms in a bowl of punch. Or use them for cake decoration."

I stumbled into our first Gainesville Camellia Society show in January, 1980, when it was being held in a bank on North Main Street. I knew very little about camellias, but saw an announcement about the show in the newspaper. At the entrance to the show was a tree decorated with waxed camellias. What a gorgeous thing it was, full of huge, waxed flowers. We saw lots of beautiful blooms that afternoon, but the one thing I remember most was that wonderful waxed camellia tree.

Now is a good time to practice and hone your skills. Amaze your friends, and have fun, too, by waxing camellias for your next social event.

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