Margaret Davis – The Lady and the Camellia

  • (Excerpt from the Power Point presentation given by Lynette Gleeson – 8 May 2011)

C.japonica ‘Margaret Davis’
Australian Registration No.54 It has received the “William Hertrich Award”, 1969; the “Sewell Mutant Award”, 1976 and the “William E. Woodroof, Hall of Fame Award”, 1979. Chinese synonym: ‘Kuancaidai’.

It was difficult to find out much about the early life of Margaret Davis.

She was born Margaret E G Reardon in 1908, her birth registered at Katoomba, New South Wales. She married Arthur Davis in 1929 at Vaucluse.

She was the second woman to hold a pilot’s licence in Australia. Nancy Bird Walton was the first. What a coincidence that they both had lovely camellias named after them!

Margaret wrote several gardening books – Living Flower Arrangements in 1971; Gardening in Pots 1973 & Balcony, Terrace and Patio Gardens in 1997.

The movement that eventually became The Garden Club of Australia Inc. was founded at a meeting called by Margaret Davis at Red Cross House Sydney. Most of the thirty or so people who attended this meeting had worked together for the previous six years organising a Sydney version of the Chelsea Flower Show to raise funds for the Red Cross.

The show was a huge success and became an annual event until 1949, when it could not be repeated because its site, the Domain, and the extra manpower that had been provided by the soldiers from Victoria Barracks were no longer available. To ease the disappointment that this had caused, Margaret Davis suggested that a garden club be formed. The name NSW Garden Club was chosen. Mrs. Davis was elected as President and the membership fee set a one guinea. Rather a large amount for those days! By February the following year a central organizing committee of up to 20 members had been established and the aims, reflecting an early concern for the environment were set out. General meetings were held once a month and the membership grew rapidly to 300 by 1952, which was helped by the press, who reported many of the club’s activities. One member did a monthly broadcast gardening session over radio 2CH and this attracted more members. In February 1952 the name was changed to The Garden Club of Australia and in 1997 (incidentally at the GCA Convention at Narrandera run in conjunction with its annual Camellia Show) it became The Garden Clubs of Australia Inc.

Nearly all cultures have found ways of remembering wars and honouring war heroes.Margaret Davis Some preserved the memory through myths and legends and others built monuments. The idea of planting trees as war memorials appears to have originated in Great Britain in 1918 with the “Roads of Remembrance as War Memorials”. It was Mrs. Margaret Davis who first suggested planting a living memorial to those Australians who had served in World War II as the Garden Clubs’ first project. Her concept of the Remembrance Driveway has, however had a beneficial influence on the lives of literally thousands of people.

Recognizing the Garden Clubs’ limitations, Margaret Davis enlisted the help of others who had influence in the right places. On 5 February 1954 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh planted two London Plane Trees on the Bridge and Loftus Streets corner of Macquarie Place in Sydney and later on 16 February the Queen planted a Snow Gum at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

These were the first official plantings which physically, marked each end of the Remembrance Driveway and which provided the impetus for subsequent plantings to begin from both ends of the Driveway. The last inclusion was on 15 November 2010, when the Australian Defence Force Memorial Plantation was dedicated on Remembrance Driveway – Sydney to Canberra at Mount Annan Botanic Garden.

Among other community projects of the Garden Club was the establishment in 1956 of a Fragrant Garden for the Blind, situated at the premises of the Royal Blind Institute. Sadly it was demolished along with the building when the Institute relocated to Enfield.

Interested in flower arranging, Margaret Davis along with Janet Waterhouse (wife of E G Waterhouse, who also has a camellia named after her) started the Sydney Chapter of Ikebana International in 1958.

Margaret Davis died in March 2000 in Santa Barbara, California where she had lived for many years. Although in poor health for many years, she remained undaunted in spirit and retained a strong interest in conservation and the welfare of the garden club she founded 50 years before.

Camellia japonica ‘Margaret Davis’ was originated by Arthur M Davis of Cammeray, New South Wales in honour of his wife.

It is one of the sports of Aspasia Macarthur and except for its colour, it is a typical Aspasia Macarthur. It is of informal double form, cream with petals brilliantly edged with rose in the manner of the azalea Albert Elizabeth.


C. japonica ‘Aspasia Macarthur’

Sports of Margaret Davis are  Margaret Davis Ashley  which is described as a medium white to creamy white, with heavy dashings of vermillon from outer petal edges towards the centre of the bloom. a peony aorm. Originated by Gene King, Monroe, Louisianna, USA and registered in 1983. I was unable to obtain a phot of this bloom but fromt recent US show schedules it is still grown in the USA.

Another is Margaret Davis Picotee originated in USA by William Woodroof, Sherman Oaks, California. Described as a medium white to creamy white, edged vermillion and was registered in 1982. In England this cultivar seems to be generally known as Margaret Davis.

C. japonica 'Margaret Davis Picotee'

C. japonica ‘Margaret Davis Picotee’

Camellia japonica ‘Margaret Davis Supreme’ is pictured in a book ‘Camellias; sent to me and compiled by Mr Y C Shen from San Francisco for the Shanghai Botanic Gardens. A chinese friend translated the text to read ‘sport of Margaret Davis‘.

C. japonica 'Margaret Davis Supreme'

C. japonica ‘Margaret Davis Supreme’

Listed in the International Camellia Register is Bianye Kuancaidai. (Margaret Davis Benten) C. japonica Gao, Jiyin, 2007, The Identification….Outstanding Camellias, p.147 with colour photo; A sport of Margaret Davis, originated by Jinhua Feng’s Camellia Garden of China in 2004. Flower as for Margaret Davis, occasional red stripes and spots on petals. Leaves dark green edged with yellow, irregular shape, wrinkled surface. Upright plant, slow growth. Flowers early to mid-season. I have not been able to find a photo of it.

Among the other Aspasia Macarthur sports are Lady Loch, Can Can, Otahuhu Beauty, Camden Park, Strawberry Blonde and Jean Clere.


The Garden Clubs of Australia (including Mrs Patricia Prior)

Remembrance Driveway Committee

International Camellia Register

‘Camellias’ – J C Shen

Macoboy’s ‘What Camellia is That?’

NSW Historic Index of BDM








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