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The words have it

Gardening with Patricia Jordan

I HAVE been a member of the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK for about 35 years and I have kept up my membership as I feel it is such a valued source of information, especially since I came to live here in Cyprus.

It allows me to keep up with all things horticultural via their website and monthly magazine. Plant names change all the time when those that study plants in great detail suddenly find some plants that have several names or are in the wrong class or category.

Family names change too as plants are reclassified and put into what we gardeners hope will be their last name change! When I had several National Collections it was always a nightmare and costly to re-label them afresh.

As a member I look forward to the monthly magazine The Garden, which showcases new plants and ways of dealing with pests and diseases, although I don’t always agree with the findings.

I found myself in that position in October when I read a report about a firm in Oxford that has been working on engineering the genes of male Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata) so that their female offspring and wild females die as larvae.

These mutated flies were released among lemon trees grown in glass houses and after some months they all died! Well I couldn’t let that go without comment.

All those of us who grow citrus here know Mediterranean fruit flies do not attack lemon (or lime) trees possibly because of their very hard peel. However they lay as many eggs as they can in softer skinned oranges, grapefruit and mandarins, as well as apricots, but they are not citrus.

The RHS backtracked and responded by saying that they were only reporting the findings and put me onto the case history, so it proves that you can’t take everything you read as gospel!

I went to a most interesting talk recently on the Minayialla which is the forecasting of the next year’s weather by watching the weather from August 3 until Maria’s Assumption on August 15.

The guy who gave the talk had been born in Agros in the mountains and was very knowledgeable about weather lore. In fact if you talk to older Cypriot people they set much store by this way of forecasting the weather.

You may or not be pleased to know that it might snow at Christmas time, a view held by the speaker and indeed it has not snowed for sometime here at 300 metres where I live and then that was only a few flurries.

It would seem that we are going to get lots of rain this month, which is good as we need it to replenish the dams and soak deep down in the ground. December might see some hail, which can damage leaves and trees so do watch out for that, but in the middle of January there will be much rain, followed by lesser amounts in March and April and some snow in February.

Of course the weather does depend where you live but everyone is saying that there will be rain during the winter and for that we must be thankful!

If you think this is quaint then think about the sayings in the UK – Cast ne’er a clout till May be out; St Swithin’s Day when if it rains it will continue for 40 days; red sky night – shepherds’ delight – red sky morning – shepherds’ warning; rain before seven sun before eleven; if the oak before the ash we will have a splash but if the ash before the oak then we’ll have a soak. There are many more and mostly based on experience and countrymen’s knowledge of weather patterns. So not so strange after all!

WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN IN NOVEMBER

HOPEFULLY the weather will hold up so that remedial work can continue this month while the soil is still warm. There is still so much to do, especially in my garden.

I have just finished replanting my irises, a job which usually takes place after flowering, but because of the lack of rain I was very reluctant to move them while everything was so hot and dry.

They do need to be split up every three or four years or so with the withered leaves removed and dead roots and old rhizomes trimmed off. Replant them with the rhizomes (the fleshy part of the roots) facing into the sun in order that the sun can bake them and produce next season’s flowers. After all this give them a feed with bone meal if you can get it.

If you have a lawn and so many people are growing grass these days which sets off the flower beds so nicely, then this is a good time to drag a thin tined rake over it and get out all the rubbish that accumulates at root level. Any damp areas should be prodded with a fork to let in some air and a feed of low nitrogen (first number) but high in phosphorus fertiliser would be helpful.

Clear up any dead ‘flowers’ from bougainvillea. They of course are not really flowers but bracts and the tiny white centres are the flowers. Dried bougainvillea waste is useful as a layer in your compost heaps. Clear out any debris from underneath hedges and bushes as they will just harbour snails which will be appearing as the rains come in.

feature-gardening-things to do in the garden this month

As well as snails there will be hundreds of weeds appearing and many annuals which flowered early on in the year like cerinthe, will be growing fast. This is a good time to plant sweet peas. I like the old Heritage Peas which flower early here before the heat spoils them. My favourites are ‘Matucana’ which is dark red and purple and ‘Painted Lady’ which is pink and cream. You can buy seeds of these and other Heritage Sweet Peas from Plant World Seeds in Devon.

There is still a lot of growth in the garden and you may want to reshape and prune bushes and trees. The olive harvest is poor this year in most parts of the Mediterranean, so once you have collected what little you have you can start to prune early. The same goes for pecans, which didn’t put on much growth this year, although the almond tree which grows nearby in our garden shot up and had to have about a metre cut off as usual.

There are still lots of bulbs in the garden centres so hurry up and get those in. Tulips which flower later than the other bulbs can wait a week or two. When I was planting some daffodil bulbs recently where those planted last year failed to appear due to the lack of rain, I found that the older ones were still there underground and beginning to put down roots, so I am hoping for a bumper show in the spring. Heavily scented Paperwhites, usually grown in shallow pots, should be started off now, so that they flower in time for Christmas. They make ideal gifts for those who don’t have a garden but don’t do well a second year, so you can discard them after flowering.
Plant of the Month: Eremurus Ruiter Hybrids

BELONGING to the Asphodel family which grows in great abundance in the wild here, these are probably better known by their common names of Foxtail Lily, King’s Spears, Desert Candles and Giant Asphodels.

These most attractive plants are now available here and you may have seen these roots for sale among the spring bulbs in the garden centres. They thrive better if they are still plump and fresh, but they usually arrive here looking rather dried out and spent. It is best to revive them first and let them soak up moisture until they swell, before you plant them.

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These hardy perennials originated in Central Asia and need good drainage, full sun and winter cold to flourish, although not too much! Choose a sunny, warm and sheltered spot perhaps against a west facing wall where the sun can bake the tubers and they will grow to about a metre in height.

Lay the plant over a base of grit or sand to accommodate the root system, leaving the exposed crown on a mound of soil.
Once settled in, they dislike being disturbed but they may be split up every six years or so.

They should be planted in early autumn and never allowed to dry out. Propagation is by division but not for the first six years as they resent being moved, or by seeds sown in the autumn.

Germination is slow and could take up to a year. Bring the seedlings on in pots until they are large enough to plant out in the garden, when the crown should always be exposed. While some eremurus hybrids can grow to heights of 2-3 metres, the Ruiter Hybrids normally grow to one metre. Nevertheless they are extremely attractive plants for back of the border or centre of an island bed.

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