“Chanel is composed of only a few elements, white camellias, quilted bags and Austrian doorman’s jackets, pearls, chains, shoes with black toes”, quoted Karl Lagerfeld, and of all of these, I love camellias the most. A symbol of purity, longevity and strangely also death, camellias are beautiful flowers. Coco Chanel loved them so much, that, aside from using them as inspiration for her fashion, jewellery etc, she filled her rue Cambon private apartment with these lovely blooms. The camellia features heavily even on her chandeliers and stunningly ornate Coromandel screens and she re-invented the camellia into more than just a fashion logo.

This iconic goddess of fashion first fell in love with the camellia after reading Alexandre Dumas’ ‘La Dame aux Camélias’, a story in which the heroine always wore a white camellia, showing to the world that her heart remained pure. The camellia’s emblematic value continues to be enigmatic and in the Eastern culture, this flower has always been the symbol of purity. Such has been its calming effect, that Buddhists consider bad spirits to be driven away by camellias. Now, that is a whole lot of importance being attached to a tea flower and camellia is also a beautiful bloom. I have seen them before on and off at various places during my travels, but it was at Cologne that I attended an exhibition dedicated to the lovely camellias.

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Pristine white camellias

It was in early spring and the exhibition kicked off our 2017 flower trails. This year till now has been very flowery for us and we have chased floral experiences all across Europe. After the gorgeous camellia exhibition at Cologne Botanical Garden, we experienced the mass blooming of wild poppies in the south of Spain, followed by cherry flowers in Bonn, bluebells at Belgium and finally tulips in Holland. I hope this flower show continues into summer and that my long cherished dream of Provencal lavender fields also come true. Anyway, the journey so far has been very beautiful and I have got loads of beautiful memories to cherish. That is why on a lazy Monday like this, I decided to pay a brief tribute to the camellias of Cologne.

On a cool March Sunday Cologne’s Botanical Garden (Flora as it is called in Germany) proudly announced the beginning of its camellia exhibition. A beautiful public park on the left of the Rhine, the Flora is one of our favourite places in the city and we never fail to visit it at least once a month. A gorgeous historic building occupies the heart of the park and it is home to over 10,000 species of plants. Though populated by mostly local plants, Flora‘s hothouses breed many exotic blooms and in early springs, they become a feast for winter-sore eyes.

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The camellias too were one of the hothouse residents and they had turned the glass box into a Garden of Eden. Even though, associated with sombre nuances like death or purity, I find camellias to be drop dead gorgeous and thus had enjoyed the exhibition to the fullest. Presenting a photo essay of our camellia filled spring Sunday.

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Hidden behind a trellis

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Was one of the striped beauties

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At the camellia exhibition

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At the Cologne Botanical Garden.

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It was a beautiful

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Spring day, and

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Flowers bloomed riotously.

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Camellias of all shapes,

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Colours and varieties

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Filled the hot house

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But it was

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The gorgeous white camellias

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Which took our breath away.

P.S – This blog post is part of the weekly series called the Cologne Diaries. Every week, Maverickbird will take on a new theme, emotion and beauty of an expat life in Cologne.

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