FORT VALLEY -- Ann Walton is the keeper of camellia names.
To register the name of a new camellia hybrid with the American Camellia Society, you have to show it is unique and has bloomed consistently. Then you have to go through Walton, the society's executive director, who approves all the names.
"It can't be an ugly word. I won't pass it," she said. "And it can't be the same as another one."
The society, located in Fort Valley south of Macon, has cataloged more than 2,100 individually named varieties of camellias. The names can come from anywhere -- a favorite actor, the name of a family pet or even a description of the flower.
"It's really an individual thing," Walton said. "People will name them for someone they like."
There are camellias named after celebrities Bob Hope, Nancy Reagan and Angela Lansbury, and there's even one named Dawn's Early Light.
"Look at all these names," camellia grower Frank Jamison of Fort Valley said while thumbing through the society's listings. "It's like a New York phone book."
Getting to the point of naming a flower is a long journey. Generally, only about one in 200 hybrids produce a flower good enough to name. Finding out if it's good enough takes about 11 years.
"So if you start hybridizing in your 30s or 40s and you're unsuccessful, you don't have a whole lot of time to try again," said Tom Johnson, the society's horticulturist. …