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Camellia Walk Makeover

Camellia Walk Makeover

Thu, November 11, 2021 by Lucy Contreras, Assistant Manager of Plant Collections | in Botanical Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens really takes its motto, “Ever Changing. Simply Amazing.”, to heart. Oftentimes our changes are completely new and exciting projects, but sometimes our “ever changing” endeavors come from necessity. In recent years, the Camellia Walk, situated between the Holliday Cottage and the road by the Welcome Center Plaza parking lot, has faced issues from flooding. During heavy rainfall, the pond next to the camellias rises, causing many of the camellias to be underwater. The image below demonstrates what the flooding is like on the opposite side of the pond after a particularly severe rain event, and unfortunately, the flooding can be just as severe on the Camellia Walk side. Sadly, Since we are not at the forefront of aquatic camellia development, this simply will not do.

In order to both improve the health of the camellias, while also allowing for an even better experience, we decided to move our ailing camellias to higher ground on the other side of the sidewalk. We were excited to undertake the project, not only to help improve the health of the camellias, but also to allow for the Camellia Walk to be walked through, with camellias on both sides of our Camellia Walk path.

Camellia × williamsii 'Jury's Yellow' flower

With nearly forty camellias in need of relocating, Frank Hosier, our Manager of Horticulture, thought it best to rent a special piece of equipment that would make the job a bit easier:  a tree spade.

When you work in a profession that literally has you playing in the dirt, it’s no surprise that most of us in the Horticulture Department were excited to use the new “toy”, as evidenced by Allie McCoy, one of our horticulturists, in the image above. The tree spade allowed us to dig our camellias easily, while also preserving most of their roots and the soil around them.

The tree spade not only dug the camellias, but it also created holes to place our transitioning plants. This eliminated the need for us to hand dig large, wide holes to accommodate the camellias’ considerable root balls.

Moving the camellias also allowed us to perform another very important task – digging out their root flares. The root flare is the point of the plant where the roots begin to flare out, almost as if the plants are donning bell-bottom jeans. It is necessary to keep the root flare exposed and not covered with soil or excess mulch. When the root flare is covered, it can lead to rotting and negatively impact the health of the plant. Over the years, the camellias had settled, or sank into the ground over time, in their initial planting spots and the root flares had been covered on many of them.

Our volunteers joined us and worked on uncovering the root flares and pulling back any additional soil from the root ball of the plants. It was important to not only expose the root flares but to make sure the soil throughout the entire root ball surface was not higher than the root flare, lest the root flare become covered again.

While the holes dug for the camellias were a pretty good fit, we still needed to do a little work filling in any space between the camellias and the edge of the hole. We used topsoil and filled in the gaps. This was a very important step to help reduce the likelihood of having the camellias settle and the root flares become buried again.

Once the camellias had been moved, we watered them in. While watering is necessary after any transplanting project, it was dually important to reveal if we needed to backfill with additional soil, as it further helped the existing soil to settle.

Camellia japonica 'Guilio Nuccio' flower

As we set our sights on winter, we can’t wait to see how the Camellia Walk will take root and paint the winter landscape. On your next trip to Brookgreen Gardens, take a stroll down the Camellia Walk and see the new changes, and be sure to visit us again at the end of February or the beginning of March to see the camellias in all their flowering glory!

Are you curious as to how the tree spade works? Watch our video below and see!

See you in the Gardens!

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1931 Brookgreen Drive

Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Off US Highway 17 Bypass, between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island

on South Carolina's Hammock Coast