Superintendent William Hertrich first planted camellias on railroad baron Henry Huntington’s southern California estate in 1908-09. The original planting consisted of two dozen plants. Now there are over 1900 camellias planted at the Huntington. While the last of the original plants, a ‘Pink Perfection’, succumbed to root rot in 2011, a propagule lives on. It is not possible to plant all of the 50,000+ known Camellia varieties, but Hertrich wished to obtain all possible varieties for the garden in his lifetime. Since Hertrich’s passing, Huntington’s collection goals remain broad in scope. With respect to the collection, they aspire to select and add to the collection: 1. Camellias that educate the public horticulturally and botanically, 2. varieties with outstanding characteristics, 3. unusual and “breakthrough” introductions, 4. camellia species. Due to limited space, they have sought to remove duplicate plants in their collections to make way for new.
Due to Hertrich’s foresight, the Huntington has one of the largest Camellia collections in existence. Such a large collection holds many responsibilities; at the Huntington they work hard to maintain their collections through good curatorial practices and culture. In 2001, the Huntington was designated a “Garden of Excellence” by the International Camellia Society. The Huntington strives to add more Camellia species to its collection for research and conservation.