Thirty years ago, I was Wesley Foundation Director for the United Methodist campus ministry at the University of South Alabama. Since 1913, Methodists have served students at many state universities across the United States, Canada, and the U.K. Of course, many other denominations and para-church organizations have campus outreach as well. I have fond memories of the years I spent there, working with both students and faculty in various capacities.
The buildings at U.S.A. were spaciously scattered across hundreds of wooded acres in west Mobile, Alabama, with the central landscaped grounds dominated by camellias among the majestic oaks and pines. Large mature camellias lined the main sidewalk leading from the back of the Administration building to the rest of the campus. I enjoyed walking through those beautiful columns of flowering shrubs each winter. You see this walkway in the top photo on the blog today.
Last month, I decided to visit the campus again to see if the camellias are still there. They would be well over fifty years old now. And yes, they still line that central walkway, but the university has added many more buildings and landscape improvements over the last thirty years. Those improvements include more camellia japonicas and camellia sasanquas.
Although I took a bunch of pictures on my December campus visit, I saw that about half the camellias still had tight, unopened buds. Last week I went back to the campus to take more pictures of shrubs that are now blooming in January. I think I may need to go back in another five or six weeks to see the February bloomers.
Instead of lots of botanical descriptions today, I want to share the images of the many colors and varieties I saw on my two recent campus visits. I’ll do another blog on camellias soon because of Mobile’s remarkable history of cultivating camellias. For now, I hope you will enjoy the six collages with six pictures from the University of South Alabama for Six on Saturday.
First, I’m showing some of the shrubs as they are growing in their campus environment. They all look healthy and well-cared for.
Organized according to color, I’ll start with some pink varieties.
These blush pinks are lighter shades than the first set I showed. Notice the different flower forms.
I saw several shrubs with variegated flowers – white with pink, pink on pink, and red and white.
Coral camellias are a common color.
Finally, there are the lovely, pure whites.
I’ve read somewhere that there may be as many as 3,000 varieties of camellias. The more I find out about them, the more I want to add to the few camellias I have in my yard. Some older homes have shrubs that were planted over a hundred years ago. What a beautiful, lasting legacy to leave for future generations.
That’s a whole other subject as well – the legacy of beauty, truth, values, and faith in Jesus that we leave to our children and our children’s children. That’s the work that university campus ministries do as well.
May the invisible seeds we plant into the lives of our young people be fruitful, growing healthy, enduring, and strong.