I visited Chiswick House and Gardens yesterday, to see the camellias that are currently in bloom in the conservatory. They are absolutely beautiful, and the restored conservatory is looking great as well.
The conservatory at Chiswick House was built 200 years ago, in 1813, and has been housing camellias for almost just as long. Its camellia collection is believed to be the oldest and largest collection of its kind in the western world, with some of the camellias having been at the conservatory since the 1820s.
However, the conservatory has also seen some not-so-splendid days; it was neglected over the years, and even suffered bomb damage during World War II, losing all its glass. By the end of the last century, it had fallen into bad disrepair, and the building and its camellia collection were in danger of being lost forever. They were saved thanks to the help of members of the International Camellia Society and a major restoration by English Heritage, which was completed last year.
A new annual Camellia Festival has been launched to celebrate the restoration of the gardens; it's the first time the blooming camellias can be enjoyed in the restored conservatory. The festival is now on, until 20 March. More information is available on the Chiswick House & Gardens Trust's website.
Camellias in the garden, with the conservatory in the background
Inside the camellia conservatory
The rare "camellia japonica 'Middlemist's Red'"
A white camellia, "camellia japonica 'Alba Plena'"
A mix of pale and bright pink camellia blossoms
More photos are available on my Flickr.