Camellias in the landscape

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There’s nothing like a camellia for adding cheer to the garden at this time of year. And, because they’ll grow in quite shady spots, camellias can bring colour to what might otherwise be a dull part of the garden. In fact, camellias can play useful roles in many parts of a landscape.

Camellias in pots

For example, camellias, with their glossy leaves and neat shapes, make excellent pot plants. The smaller-growing varieties are the best to choose, but even larger growers can be kept pruned to a manageable size. Buy a quality potting mix and, as added insurance to keep leaves healthy, treat at least once a year with some Gro-Plus Sulphate of Potash. Fertilise two or three times a year with Dynamic Lifter Plus Flower Food. Keep well watered, but don’t let water sit in a saucer at the base of the pot. Either empty the saucer after the pot drains or put a layer of pebbles in the saucer to keep the bottom of the pot above the water level. Yates Tuscan Edge self watering pots have a built in drainage feature that helps stop the mix from becoming waterlogged.

Camellias as features

Camellias can be pruned and trained into special shapes to make them eye-catching specimens in the garden. If you have Japanese-style patience and commitment, you could try pruning a small-leafed sasanqua into a cloud tree, with cumulus-like bunches on the ends of horizontal branches.

Perhaps a little easier- and certainly faster – would be to train the camellia as an espalier against a wall, fence or piece of lattice. Espalier is a term that means pruning to grow a plant in one horizontal dimension. The species Camellia lutchuensis, with its tiny, white, fragrant flowers, has flexible branches that make it ideal for this use.

Camellias as ground covers

‘Marge Miller’ is a prosaically named camellia variety with horizontal growth that spills attractively over banks and down the sides of pots. This Australian introduction is often grafted onto an upright stem to make a beautiful weeper. ‘Classique’ is another low grower that spreads to cover a garden bed or pot.

Camellias as hedges

Autumn flowering sasanqua camellias are usually the first choice for a hedge because they’re faster growing, have smaller leaves and are more sun tolerant than the slower japonicas. In a shady part of a larger garden, however, japonicas can make a substantial hedge that will produce showy flowers right through winter.

Camellias as specimen trees

A free standing camellia makes a lovely small specimen tree but it will need some pruning to get it into shape. Regular removal of the lower branches helps establish and maintain a clean trunk (this is called ‘lifting the skirt’). The large flowered reticulata camellias are a good choice for this situation because they develop a natural tree shape as they mature. Strategic pruning opens up the plant and reduces the risk of blossom blight affecting the flowers.

Feed camellias after flowering with Dynamic Lifter Plus Flower Food. Prune if necessary and use a Yates Rose Gun to control pests and diseases.


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