Australian Camellias – C.reticulata ‘Meg Lewis’

reprinted from Camellia News No. 198 – Winter 2015
text and photos by Barry Di Salvia

One of the most recent Australian camellia registrations, number 687 is C.reticulata16522882509_abf197f0ce_z ‘Meg Lewis’, originally known as ‘Meg’, a chance seedling grown by Judy Lewis, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, from seed produced before 1990 by Edgar R. Sebire, Wandin North, Victoria. Application made by Camellia Society of Tasmania Inc., October 2014.

The bright pink, informal double blooms are typically 120 – 150 mm diameter, 65 – 70 mm high and have 18 thick, textured, wavy petals and groups of cream stamen filaments. Mid to late flowering season. The blooms fall whole. Seeds are freely produced. The plant has upright growth and oblong leaves which are medium green, matt surfaced, flat, keeled, acuminate, finely serrate, about 105 mm x 45 mm with a 10 mm stalk. The name was chosen by Judy Lewis in memory of her daughter, Meg, who died in a boating accident on the Derwent River in 1971.

Many of us knew Judy as a member of the Camellia Society Tasmania, and as the owner of ‘Mawhera’ with its spectacular garden that we visited during the National Congress in Hobart in September 2003.

Jean Georgina Lewis (22/10/19 – 4/1/2012) was a member of the Victorian Branch of the ACRS until a Tasmanian Branch was formed in 1975, of which she was a foundation and Life Member. Judy Lewis was a wonderful ambassador for camellias.

Upon leaving school, she started pursuing her true passion of plants and gardening. This and her family were central to her life. She spent three years studying at Burnley Horticultural College in Melbourne. The principal Mr Jessep and his wife were to remain lifelong friends.

Judy was President of the Tasmanian Branch from 1979-1989 and again from 1993-1995. During this time she was instrumental in establishing a camellia garden at Narryna Heritage Museum, Battery Point, and in encouraging the Hobart City Council to establish a camellia garden at Princes Park, Battery Point, offering support to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens to establish a species garden in 1982. A member of the Board of Mary Ogilvie Home for the Aged and President in 1991, she encouraged members to establish a camellia garden there, with a planting of 30 camellias.

Many open Gardens were held at Mawhere, with the funds raised going to the Mary Ogilvie garden. After winning many Hobart City Council garden awards and appearing several times on television garden shows, he daughter Annabel suggested she go national and she won the inaugural ‘Garden of Australia Award’ in 1987, the prize being a trip to the UK for two. Mawhere’s garden has raised many thousands of dollars for charity, through open gardens, school fetes and countless fairs.

Canmews Winter 2015

Judy being presented with the Walter Hazlewood Award

In 1989 the members of the Tasmanian Branch of the ACRS presented Judy with Award of Merit for her years of outstanding service. She promoted the camellia in the community and encouraged a number of young people to join the society. She was the driving force of the Tasmanian Camellia Society since its inception and always happy to pass on her vast knowledge of camellias. Her generous contributions to the trade table at meetings were eagerly sought. Inspirational with ideas for displays, her artistic creativity was always well to the fore. She attended all the National Council Meetings as a Tasmanian Councillor and was overwhelmed to receive The Walter Hazelwood Award 2004. It was a wonderful tribute to her many years of involvement with camellias.

She was immensely proud of a seedling she developed which she was going to name Meg Lewis in memory of her beloved daughter Meg who died in an accident aged only 22. In another tragedy Annabel her second daughter, also died in an accident along with her two children. (Her eldest son, Jamie, had a massive heart attack when aged 50). Through all this sadness her garden was her greatest outlet and she shared her gardening knowledge with a new generation of gardeners.

Virginia Harper, a very close friend of Meg Lewis, sent me the following (through June McLeod): “Meg Abbot Broch Lewis was born on 31st July, 1948 in Hobart. She was the eldest daughter of Dr Reginald Lewis and Mrs Judy Lewis. Meg had 2 older brothers, Jamie and Henry and 2 younger brothers Tim and Peter (known as Pop). Annabel, was Meg’s only sister and the youngest in the family.

I became friends with Meg when she started school at Fahan in 1957 after attending the Sandy Bay Infant School for 2 years. Our homes were about 300 metres apart so we saw a lot of each other and became firm friends. We had a very happy and fun time growing up and shared many experiences. From a young age Meg was very outgoing and full of life. I was an only child and Meg and her family included me in lots of their outings and excitement of a busy large family.

I remember when the class was learning to write in primary school and Meg had the clearest best writing in the class. She often entered writing competitions and usually won. It was always exciting to see prizes arrive at her house, which she always shared – boxes of chocolates, cartons of cordials, free passes to films and many others.

Meg enjoyed sport very much, whether competing or watching. She was very good at



most sports – an all rounder – and would compete in all she could. She particularly loved hockey, athletics, swimming and tennis. She was an avid supporter of St Kilda football team and was thrilled to be at the game at the MCG when they won the Gran final by 1 point in 1966. A very excited, happy and cheering Meg was photographed by the Sun Newspaper and she, her family and friends were thrilled to see the poto in the paper the next day. Meg was just one of 101,000 spectators – mostly cheering St Kilda fans.

Meg was very popular with all sorts of people and had a wide circle of friends from all over the state. She was always a load of fun to be with, she laughed a lot, had a mischievous streak, and a very kind heart. Meg loved going on outings with her family and I was lucky enough to be included. All the children were sitting in the back of the ute (we all called it the truck) and driven off to another adventure by Meg’s mother. We would all clamber into the truck to go up the mountain to have snow fights, down to the Huon to collect cherries, visit some of Meg’s mother’s relatives who lived out of town to play in eir gardens, and pick-ups from school on rainy days.

Just before Meg and I left school we had a dance for friends held at Meg’s lovely big house and garden – another fun and happy occasion. Meg and I left Fahan School at the end of 1965 and were thrown out (as was the tradition and still is) with the rest of the class.

In 1966 Meg went to “Invergowrie” in Hawthorn, a Melbourne suburb for 1 year. “Invergowrie” was a finishing school and girls attended from all over Australia. Meg made many friends there. That same year I started nursing training but only lasted 6 months and then went to work in a Bank.

Meg did some holidaying around Australia and then returned to Hobart to work as a trainee draughtsperson in the Forestry Department. At the beginning on 1970 she went by ship to London, sailing through the Panama Canl. Meg’s eldest brother Jamie, was in London so she had a base. She travelled all over the UK and Europe having her usual exciting times. Meg returned to Hobart on Christmas Eve 1970. She hadn’t settled into any work as she was waiting until summer was over. Meg died tragically in a shocking boating accident on the Derwent River just out from Sandy Bay, almost opposite her family home. It was 21st February 1971 – 44 years ago. I was devastated on hearing the news, I was pregnant at the time and my father died from cancer 2 weeks after Meg. It was an extremely sad time for me, but I had the joy of the birth of a son in May 1971. Life goes on, but I always have the most wonderful memories of my dear friend Meg. We had always remained very close friends and shared so much as we grew up. Our very happy childhoods with many wonderful and memorable experiences.

After Meg died, her parents develop the garden more and a swimming pool was put in the back garden. It was looked on as a memorial to Meg. Meg’s mother particularly loved the garden and planted many old and different plants, many from cuttings and seeds. Of course she loved camellias and was so knowledgeable about them. She was extremely involved in the Camellia Society. It was a great thrill when the garden at “Mawhera” won the 1977 Australian Home Beautiful Garden Competition. A great recognition of all the wonderful ove and gardening Meg’s parents, particularly her mother put into their beautiful garden. The prize a trip to England was well deserved.

Although Meg’s life was short she loved life to the full and crammed a huge amount into her 22 ½ years. Her family and frinds remember her fondly.”

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