Camellias are one of the classic shrubs of the south and they are all the more beautiful when they start to bloom. My earliest camellia is a pink that started blooming just 2 weeks ago and is now in full bloom. This one is a standard mid-pink color with a double bloom.
Camellias are evergreen with leathery leaves, that have tiny serrations along the edge. The c. sasanqua, that I have blooms in fall, whereas the C. japonica blooms in late winter. There are so many camellia varieties though that you can get one that will be in bloom every week of the short southern winters.
Last week I was at the Georgia State Botanical Garden which has an extensive collection of camellias. They also have many other gardens there such as the new flower garden, an attractive formal knot garden and trial gardens.