Gardening with Patricia Jordan
DO YOU ever look at all the different tree shapes? While I have not been digging and delving in the garden during the summer months, I have been catching up with relaxing and reading on the veranda where I overlook the many different trees in this valley. Although we can’t grow Delonix or Frangipane here because of the normally low humidity in our area, I love them for their umbrella shapes, which are very pleasing to the eye. If you live above the coast line then any citrus trees can give you this same shape instead. Kept low for ease of maintenance, they are an asset to any garden.
Whoever planted the trees in our street gave us several eucalypts which are the most amazing trees. From seed originally brought from Australia, they were used to ‘drink’ up the excess swampy water on the island, as it was a haven for the deadly mosquitoes assailing the British troops when they first landed here. They are not such favourite trees nowadays, as they still drink up any available water from ground sources with their shallow root systems! Down Under they are known as ‘widow makers’ as any storm can bring them tumbling down, killing any unfortunate who is nearby!
Nevertheless their blue elliptical leaves form into large ‘clouds’ and wave about in any breeze, exposing the stunning red flowers and the fresh greener leaves underneath. I know that you can cloud prune almost any trees and bushes as I have done here, but these are very natural looking. The other clever thing about eucalypts is that they shed their bark annually and the most interesting pieces fall off and are a flower arranger’s delight! If you ring bark a tree normally (that is cut right through the bark all the way round) then you will kill the tree, but these survive year after year.
We are lucky to have such a wealth of tree shapes in Cyprus. Cupressus comes in various shapes and sizes. There are the dumpy Cupressus ‘Goldcrest’ trees whose leaves glow in the sunshine as they line avenues and side streets in our towns, and there are tall columnar sempervirens soaring skywards in their efforts to top any others. One in a garden near me hosts a bougainvillea as if it was its natural environment. They do remind me of some of Arthur Streeton’s famous paintings from France during WWI, where they dot the landscape in the far distance. There is a lovely glade off the highway from Nicosia to Limassol which epitomises the feeling I get when I look at these tall trees towering above all else. It has a peaceful feel about it as I glance over when I drive by.
Lastly there are the architectural trees like the Norfolk Island Pines, which if they do grow straight, are wonderful to behold. Unfortunately they don’t always do so, sometimes even sprouting several leaders making them seem ungainly. Captain James Cook is credited with being the first person to have sighted these trees, sometimes known as Star Pine or Triangle Tree, in 1774 while voyaging around the Pacific Ocean for the second time near Norfolk Island.
Unfortunately this wonderful tree (which is not really a pine although it does have cones) can grow to between 50 – 65 metres given the right conditions, so you might want to give it a miss in your garden!
WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN
Despite the calendar moving on into September it will still be warm so limit what you do but keep control of things. It’s far too early for taking cuttings and sowing seeds although there will still be seeds to collect and sort out for sowing on later – perhaps next month. We may be lucky and have a rain shower or two but they will just awaken the snails which will be mightily hungry. So get rid of them before they waken by checking under plant trays and beneath the rims of pots.
If you have been away then your potted plants are probably looking tired. They not have been regularly watered or the potting compost has run out of nutrients, in which case they may need a booster feed, so use liquid Phostrogen when you water. If the plants have died this gives you the opportunity to plant new ones, but not before you rid your pots of the old soil and have scrubbed the pot, especially if there has been any sort of infestation in them. New potting compost with some added slow release fertiliser to the mix will be needed and there are quite a lot of different composts in the garden centres. Most though only have enough nutrients in them for about four to six weeks, so anything you add now will boost your plants for much longer.
Tip the compost out of the bag, breaking up the lumps and adding some slow release fertiliser into the mix. If your plants are going to be outside for a long time, then you should add some sieved garden soil to give the pot some weight along with some Perlite to open up the mix.
In the orchard some of the citrus fruits may start to colour up and that will attract Mediterranean Fruit Flies. Lots of people don’t like spraying at all so hang those yellow sticky cards among your trees and you will be amazed at how many you will trap. Pomegranates will be almost bursting with ripeness now. We have had a problem with ours over the last few years, even with all the lavish attention given in our garden. There is always a drop of small fruit in the early summer but any that do survive this fate soon split their skins. Either they have had too much water or not enough. My neighbour neglects his all year and he has a bountiful crop. Maybe that is the way to manage them!
Another neighbour had his plot ploughed in the heat of August and then proceeded to plant out his winter veggies in full sun, which was neither good for him nor his pluglets. He does have watering lines from a bore hole but I do think he is rather early there. He obviously wants to get ahead of the market when everyone likes to eat brassicas again.
The news that the dams are not as full as they were this time last year comes as no surprise considering the dry winter we had, so we have to hope that the rains will come soon and soak the parched earth.
PLANT OF THE MONTH: HYDRANGEA
ORIGINALLY from southern and eastern China, Japan, the Himalayas and Indonesia, hydrangeas have become welcome shrubs for any partially shaded part of the garden. The white flowered Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ AGM, a ‘tree’ hydrangea, likes the sun and will grow to huge proportions and one wonders how the stems can support such heavy heads. Others like petiolaris clamber up walls, while most shrubs grow to between one and three metres.
Those that grow in more temperate regions will be deciduous, which just means that they lose their leaves when autumn comes. This can also happen here if they are not kept continually moist during the summer, when the leaves will crumple and fall off. However bright green buds will be hiding down the stems and when the weather moderates, these will grow into new stems and leaves, and even have new but smaller flowers.
With over 600 named cultivars, many hydrangeas are grown in pots and can have blue, red, pink, light purple, or dark purple flowers. The acidity of the soil can change the colour. If the PH is below 7 then blue flowers will be produced. PH above 7 means that the flowers will probably be pink. Using rainwater to water hydrangeas may help to keep the colour since mains hard water can affect them, turning the blue flowers mauve or pink. If you are going to plant them out in the garden then do it in the autumn or spring and feed generously at that time. The flowers appear from late spring until late autumn, but only if you live at higher elevations. Lower down the intense heat of the summer can kill off potted hydrangeas quite early on. The flower heads dry well and are useful for winter flower arrangements. Propagation is by stem cuttings.