Strolling among gardens: discover the camellia route (part 1)

One of the most beautiful and appreciated flowers in existence is the camellia. Surely you have seen it on more than one occasion, but do you know the history surrounding this flower?

Its name comes from its discoverer, the missionary Georg Joseph Kamel, who imported it from Japan to Europe in the 17th century.

Although its existence on our continent is relatively short, compared to that of other flowers, the first evidence of its cultivation dates back to 5000 years ago, when in China it was grown mainly for tea (Camellia sinensis variety) or oil (Camellia oleifera).

The camellia tree is known in Japan as “tsubaki” or “tree of shining leaves” and had a special symbolism in the culture of this country. According to a belief of the Shinto religion, the spirit of the gods dwelt in the flowers of the Tsubaki when they visited the earth. Camellia plants were considered immortal and were placed on the tombs of samurai.

In Europe, the camellia flower is associated with romanticism and elegance. It was very fashionable in the nineteenth century and inspired the works of many artists, especially painters but also writers such as Alexandre Dumas who wrote The Lady of the Camellias. Some time later Coco Chanel took it as a symbol of her maison.

But how did camellias arrive in Galicia?

It is thought that they were introduced by Spanish and Portuguese sailors as early as the 16th century, although there is no written evidence to support this theory. What we do know is that many of the camellias that grow today in Galician parks and gardens were imported from Portugal in the mid-19th century, when they were very fashionable and in great demand.

At first they were planted in the manors and stately homes of the nobility, but over time they also reached both public and private gardens and land, until Galicia became an international reference in the cultivation of this plant.

There are 8000 different varieties of camellia in Galicia, and this is explained by the optimal characteristics for the cultivation of this flower in our region: fertile soils, humid climates and mild temperatures.

Its beauty, abundance and the botanical diversity of our gardens and natural environments, have led to the emergence of a new tourist route called “route of the camellias”.

Are you an art and nature lover and would like to live a different tourist experience? The route of the camellias allows us to know the most fascinating green spaces that house the Galician pazos and discover the mysteries that hide their stones, in addition to tasting the wines and typical products of each region.

Since the route of the camellias is very extensive, we will dedicate a series of articles to talk about each of the places of interest that we can visit on this route. Anyway, remember that many of the places we propose you to visit are compatible with some of our tours (for example, we can see the Alameda Park in Santiago after completing the Camino).

We hope you like this proposal. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can contact us to ask for more information about the route of the camellias.

1) Alameda Park in Santiago de Compostela.

Located in the old town of Santiago, it is one of the most emblematic and busy places in the city. A horseshoe-shaped route where you can enjoy a romantic and modernist walk.

The Spanish writer García Lorca remembers his time in Santiago and its gardens full of camellias:

“It rains in Santiago
my sweet love.
White camellia from the air
shines brightly in the sun”.

From the Alameda we can also reach the centenary “carballeira de San Lourenzo”, crossing the Avenida das Burgas. Behind this ancient oak grove are the gardens of the Pazo de San Lourenzo, protected by a high stone wall. These gardens are considered one of the most relevant works of Spanish geometric gardening, both for their size and for their more than four centuries of history. They are home to more than one hundred plant species, among which the camellia varieties stand out, the oldest specimens of which have been preserved since the 19th century.

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