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Dunedin received plenty of sunshine and rain during spring and that has resulted in vigorous growth on the camellias.
The young foliage is beautiful and, if we look closely and understand how plants respond to pruning, we can use their growing power to our advantage.
Camellias are pruned after flowering in spring. The growth produced this season will carry next year's flowers.
Plants usually grow fastest at their uppermost tips, where hormones stimulate active growth. Removing the apical (top dominant) buds encourages lower branches to break into growth, resulting in a bushier plant.
Many plants common in our home gardens, such as camellias, have adventitious buds. These dormant buds on the stem, or the root, are often invisible until stimulated into growth. They are a great survival technique.
Adventitious buds from stems can help plants replace lost or damaged limbs, while adventitious buds from roots can develop into shoots called suckers, which can generate an entirely new plant.
Coppicing involves reducing a shrub or tree close to the ground to encourage multi-stemmed regrowth.
As a last resort, this can be a fast solution for a plant which has completely outgrown its space.
Camellias can tolerate coppicing and respond with vigorous growth which can need thinning afterwards.
Pruning the camellia collection in the lower garden has finished this year, and yes, there have been some situations where we have taken full advantage of those adventitious buds!
- Marianne Groothuis is curator of the camellia and themes collection at Dunedin Botanic Garden.