The Camellia Garden faced two major challenges this year. The first task was concerned with preparations and improvements in respect of our application to the International Camellia Society for recognition as an International Camellia Garden of Excellence. Although most of our facilities were improved, as part of a major landscape refurbishment in 2010, work had still to be done on plant collection curation, particularly data management and plant labeling. With this in mind, a GIS system was utilized and the entire garden, including every specimen of Camellia, was mapped. This was a major step forward in the management of the living collection within KBG and is seen as a pilot project, to be rolled out in time throughout the other specialist collections. The second task involved a concerted effort to reduce the population of the pernicious and aggressive alien invasive weed, Oxalis ******. Chemical and mechanical weed control systems were ruled out and, instead, a detailed cultural weed control strategy was implemented. This involved using a large team of landscape workers to remove the above ground vegetative parts of the plants. The hand weeding was quickly followed by a program of heavy top-dressing which served to starve the re-growth of light. This short term strategy allowed a window of opportunity for the planting of groundcover, which in time will effectively suppress the Oxalis. The groundcover of choice was Camellia ***** varieties. The use of tea as a groundcover plant provides an interesting additional story to the design and plant content of the Camelia garden. The introduction of some 70,000 small pot-liners has been carried out as a trial and the next two winters will be crucial in the establishment of these marginally hardy plants.
Two small landscape projects were carried out to further enhance the Camellia Garden. The first project involved the naturalization of the old pond, which was originally designed as a small reservoir for the irrigation of the garden before the installation of piped water. The margins of the pond were softened and more natural looking pool was created through the introduction of aquatic marginal plants. The second project involved the interior landscaping of the old glasshouse, to provide a suitable habitat for the cultivation of the famed yellow camellias. Although recently renovated, the aged structure is less than ideal for the cultivation of plants, mostly due to the limited facility for ventilation and air exchange. However, the issues of temperature and humidity managements have been eased by the incorporation of a fast flowing waterfall and deep pool into the design.