In 1915, Robert O. Rubel, Jr. began growing camellias at his Longview estate in Crichton. His Oriental garden was planted there in 1917, its entrance at the terminus of a pine thicket. By 1928, Rubel sought to develop scientific data sets recording his exhaustive soil analyses and hoped to disseminate this information to all camellia growers. He also became an avid forager, locating unusual camellia varieties in rural gardens and purchasing them for other collectors. He considered camellias "the most valuable ornamental plants in commerce" and sought to educate his customers about proper nomenclature, growing habits, and horticultural history. A book collector as well as a gardener, Rubel acquired a library of camellia books and manuscripts, which he touted as "the only trustworthy source" for correctly identifying plant names. He commissioned ex libris cards for his book collection, and stored his precious volumes in a fireproof safe.
Between 1931 and 1932, Rubel sold thirteen carloads of collected specimens to one South Carolina customer, a transaction that he believed to be the largest sale of camellias since their introduction to Europe in the early eighteenth century. The meticulous plantsman sold his camellias with embossed copper labels attached to each plant, so that the tag could serve as a permanent means of correct identification.
The Garden Library is open to researchers Mondays-Fridays from 9-12 and 1-5.