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The Camellia Man Tom Johnson Will Share His Knowledge and Humor

Saturday | Feb 10 | 11 AM-2 PM 

No flower brings a splash of color to a drab winter landscape quite like the camellia, and perhaps no one knows more about camellias than The Camellia Man, Tom Johnson.

Fans of the flower—and those who are acquainted with Johnson’s expertise on the subject and his entertaining wit—can enjoy both on Saturday, Feb 10, 2024, when the Friends of the Albany Museum of Art conduct their second garden tour at the Garden Center at Historic Rawson Circle. The Camellia Day event is 11 am-2 pm at the 818 Fifth Ave. location adjacent to Hilsman Park.

“It’s going to be a very nice event,” Kirk Rouse, who is chairing the program, said. “It’s all about camellias and the historic Rawson Circle neighborhood.”

Johnson recently retired as executive director at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, S.C., which is recognized as one of seven Gardens of Excellence by the International Camellia Society. He also formerly managed the American Camellia Society’s Massee Lane Gardens in his hometown of Perry for eight years after serving a decade at the Carter Center, where he helped oversee the development of the center’s gardens. His wife, Mary Ann Johnson, was the floral director for the Carter Center. Both will be at the Feb 10 event.

Rouse and Elaine Gurley with the Sowega Master Gardeners, who collaborated last October with the Friends of the AMA for an evening lecture by Johnson, said they were happy that the couple could return to Albany for the Feb 10 Camellia Day.

“He will talk about camellias and she will demonstrate floral design with camellias,” Gurley said. “They are both good storytellers.”

After the Johnsons’ portion of the program, participants will enjoy a catered box lunch, then take a tour of the three gardens surrounding the Garden Center, as well as three private gardens at Rawson Circle residences.

“There are three gardens around the Garden Center—the Tip’s Garden, the Bennett’s Garden, and the Men’s Garden Club Memorial Garden,” Gurley said, noting the memorial garden is being restored in an Eagle Scout project led by Lucy Davis. Before his October lecture at the AMA, Johnson met with members of the Sowega Master Gardeners to inspect the historic Tip’s Garden and make recommendations for it.

Organizers expect the upcoming Camellia Day will be a colorful event with the camellias in bloom. Depending on the variety, camellias bloom from fall to spring, bringing warm colors to the cold seasons.

In addition to the Garden Club, which was built in the mid-1950s, participants will be able to tour the nearby Women’s Federated Clubs of Albany-Clubhouse at 1012 N. Van Buren St., which was built in 1941. Both were constructed during the Woman’s Club Movement in the United States.

“The clubhouse, which I describe as a sister clubhouse to the Garden Center, and the Garden Center are eligible to apply for the National Register of Historic Places listing,” Gurley said. “They were both built at the height of the Woman’s Club Movement that began in the mid-19th century and culminated in the mid-20th century. Women wanted their own clubs apart from being auxiliary members of men’s clubs. Those two buildings are old enough and they’re significant because they represent that movement.”

The garden tour is a fundraiser for the Friends of the AMA. “It’s to continue our AMA Treasures project in which we recognize those families who have made substantial contributions to the success of the Albany Museum of Art,” Rouse said.

The cost to attend the event is $65 per person, or $55 for AMA donors at the Reciprocal Level or higher. An online registration link may be found HERE. (Registration has ended for this event.)




The Albany Museum of Art is located at 311 Meadowlark Drive in Albany, Ga., adjacent to Albany State University West Campus just off Gillionville Road. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The Albany Museum of Art is open to the public 10 am-5 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free.
For more information about the AMA please visit our website,, or call 229.439.8400. Be sure to follow the @AlbanyArtMuseum on Twitter, AlbanyMuseum on Instagram, and AlbanyMuseumOfArt on Facebook.


The Friends of the AMA is an organization formed in 2020 that is active in fundraising, advocacy, and other means of supporting the Albany Museum of Art and the work it does in the community. In addition to events, the group annually recognizes individuals who have contributed to the success of the museum through its AMA Treasures series, which includes a tribute video.


Sowega Master Gardeners, affiliated with the University of Georgia Extension Service in Dougherty County, are part of the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program that connects UGA Extension, plant enthusiasts, and communities across the state. Master Gardeners share UGA Extension consumer horticulture programming about the selection and care of plants for ornamental value, recreation, and home food production. They also teach community members how to use plants and gardening to improve their environment, personal health, and quality of life. More than 10,000 men and women have been trained and certified in Georgia since 1979, when the program was initiated in the State.