The history of the Camellietum Compitese

The plants belonging to the Camellia L. genus have had, since their arrival in Italy, around the end of the 18th century, great success as ornamental plants both for their adaptability to our climates that for their beauty due to evergreen foliage and spectacular flowering. But what aroused the enthusiasm of collectors was above all the ease with which, starting from the first species that arrived in Italy (Camellia japonica L.), it was possible to obtain new plants with much more showy flowers. In Tuscany the enthusiasts were particularly numerous: over time they created many cultivars (ie man-made varieties) and imported just as many from other Italian regions and from abroad. The camellia cultivars were planted in the most prestigious Lucca villas of the time, giving rise to a real fashion, the “cameliomania”, which reached its peak in the mid-19th century. These plants, which have now become monumental, today constitute an invaluable heritage both for beauty and rarity: the hundreds of ancient camellias still present in the parks and gardens of the villas in Lucca, in addition to giving us spectacular blooms, still remind us today, with their names , characters and facts of the time. It is with the aim of preserving this remarkable botanical heritage, given that often some cultivars are present with only one specimen, that the need arose to create the Camellietum, which houses all the cultivars that made the history of Camellias in the 19th century in Tuscany. The area identified to carry out the ambitious project – a terracing on the slopes of Monte Serra – is particularly suitable, both for the microclimate and for the abundant presence of water and the conformation of the land.In March 2005, in the presence of the local authorities but also of some international authorities such as the president of the International Camellia Society, Mr. Gregory Davis, and of a delegation from Japan, in particular Mr. Kotaro Tanimoto, president of the Exporter’s Tea Association of Shizuoka, who has been collaborating for years in the realization of the event, the first plant was planted. The Camellietum initially extended into four terraces, subdivided in such a way as to give an educational value to the structure: the simple-flowered cultivars and some species of camellia other than Japonica were positioned at the entrance, to give the visitor an approximate knowledge of the genus Camellia, to then move on to the second plain where there were semi-double-flowered camellias and end with two other flats with double-flowered plants. In 2006 the Camelieto, as it is now commonly called, included about 150 plants and 120 different cultivars; in March of the same year, Dr. Andrea Dietrich, director of Pillnitz Castle (Dresden, Germany), planted a plant in the garden from the very famous and important German mother plant.

In the following two years the Camelieto experienced a slow but steady growth of plants and cultivars reaching a number of 250 in March 2008 plants and about 200 different cultivars including, for example, the Aspasia, Stella Polare and Stella di Compito Cultivars, considered seriously at risk of extinction. Precisely in 2008 the Cultural Center, thanks to the contribution of the municipal administration of Capannori, acquired a collection of ancient camellias from Mr. Ponzanelli Mario of Marina di Carrara, a great enthusiast who in more than thirty years of travel, meetings and exchanges, had accumulated a collection of about 800 plants and 650 different cultivars. From October 2008 to today, the Camellietum has enormously changed its structure and its essence: the extension of the park has gone from about 2000 square meters to 7250 square meters and, with the last plants planted in March 2011, we have gone from 250 plants and 200 cultivars to the current 1000 plants and 750 cultivars, plants not only from Tuscany, and mostly originating from the Lucca area, but coming from all over Italy and from many European and non-European countries. An overall redevelopment project was also recently approved, co-financed by the Tuscany Region and the Municipality of Capannori, which provides for the improvement of the service infrastructures to ensure greater control, maintenance and usability of the Camelieto

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