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It's real. This Christmas tree is a camellia.

YULETIDE CAMELLIAS make radiant--and flowering--Christmas trees. This variety of C. sasanqua naturally blooms in autumn and early winter; 3-inch flowers with vibrant red petals and bright yellow stamens decorate the tree for two months or longer each year.

Ann Richardson, curator of the camellia garden at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, shaped the tree at left. Here she shares her techniques for success with a 'Yuletide' tree.

SELECTING AND SHAPING

THE TREE

You'll find 'Yuletide' in nurseries this month. Commonly sold in 1- and 5-gallon containers, trees range in price from about $7 to $22.

Choose a plant that branches low, near the base (left plant in top photo). It should be fuller at the bottom than at the top and branch evenly on all sides.

Begin to shape the tree after it finishes flowering. Cut each branch at an angle just above a bud. Use the photograph at left as a guide for shaping. Periodically, step away from the plant to observe the branch pattern and the shape it's taking. Slightly irregular branching and pruning give the tree a natural, feathered look.

After it's pruned, the plant will put out a new flush of leaves. Trim again, before the plant sets flower buds. Do not prune after mid-July.

CAMELLIA CARE

During the holiday season, when it's flowering, move the tree indoors near a window; keep it well watered. For the remainder of the year, place it outdoors in light shade. Keep soil moist but not wet; flush water through the container with each irrigation.

After flowering, fertilize the tree with a diluted solution of commercial acid plant food; too much fertilizer will burn leaves.

Once a year (after the plant blooms), check to see if it's rootbound. Tap the container to loosen the plant, then carefully slide it out. If roots have grown to the edge of the container, or if they encircle it, transplant the tree into a larger pot. Or, root-prune in February or March and replant with fresh soil in the same container. With either method, use a fast-draining acid soil mix.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Words:349
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