Newcomers to the island may ask ‘What goes on in our gardens here in May?’

There are many different flowers in bloom including roses, which always seem to be around, and mostly with a sweet perfume. My favourite is Rosa banksia, which has dear little yellow flowers in my garden, although there are some bushes of them that have white flowers, but alas both have no perfume.

Many of the gardens in the villages around where I live have lots of roses in bloom at this time of year, particularly the Queen Elizabeth rose which is regarded as a hedging rose, as it can grow quite tall.

Alas, I can’t grow HT roses here, although I have tried. I even took cuttings, having read somewhere, that you can propagate roses by sticking the cuttings into a potato and then burying the potato in the ground, but that didn’t work either! As the rose cuttings died, the potato grew!

I expect that you will have brought on brightly-coloured annuals like antirrhinums or even bought others with their interesting flowers that the bees love to dive in to. If you want to attract bees and butterflies to your garden and you have lots of space, then consider bulbines or bulbinellas, both of which grow well here, and attract much wildlife, but they can take over your garden if you are not careful, so you have to keep them trimmed back.

A popular shrub or small tree, which seems to attract the same insects is Leucophyllum frutescens, (the Texas Ranger), which flowers and then flowers again, especially after a shower of rain, when its lovely rose-pink flowers quickly open up. You can cheat by spraying the top of the bush with water when it will produce even more flowers.

Wisteria, that charming climber, which will drape itself all over a railing or fence in no time at all, is another of my favourite plants and the flowers also attract insects by the score even though the flower panicles are very short lived and may drop in any heavy rain.

hemerocallis orange

Hemerocallis orange


Most houses here have a fruit tree or two in their gardens. Oranges and lemons are usually the favourites and perhaps an olive, if there is space. May is the last month to feed them with 20.10.10 fertiliser – just where the feeding roots are, between the trunk and the canopy of the tree and then no more until December. As the flowers on the citrus trees begin to fade, the process of making the citrus fruits begins.

I am always being asked about growing other fruit trees. The only known apple that will grow up to 300 metres elevation, is one called Anna, which was bred in Israel. Although many varieties of apples are available here, they are generally grown at higher elevations. Some fruits need a ‘chill period’ during their dormant time, cherries in particular, where temperatures in the winter are quite low away from the coast.

Prunus trees are all non-local having their origins as far apart as China to Asia Minor and will grow in our gardens up to 1000-1500 metres elevation. Citrus trees also emanated from China in the main, but have adapted to the Cyprus climate exceedingly well.

All prunus and citrus trees are known as hermaphrodite, which means that they have the characteristics of both male and female flowers. Prunus fruits are known as ‘drupes’, fleshy one-seeded fruits, whilst citrus fruits are botanically known as ‘hesperidium’, which means modified berries containing seeds (pips).

Stone-fruit trees are liable to exude resinous gum from time to time. Frequently little or no harm results, but sometimes the gum is the symptom of a disease of bacterial origin, often called canker. Another symptom of canker can be seen when new leaves have circular dark-brown spots. Spores enter trees through wounds that have not healed over, sometimes caused by winter pruning.

In these cases, whole branches may die back quite suddenly, sometimes in the middle of the summer and eventually the trees may have to be destroyed. Cut back diseased branches to at least six inches behind the canker and burn them if you are able to. When pruning, do ensure that you thoroughly clean your pruning knife or saw, so as not to transfer the canker to other trees.

The gum appears on branches and sometimes on the trunk from what looks like but is not, little round insect holes. Use ‘Cuproxat’, a copper-based liquid and similar to ‘Murphy’s Copper Fungicide’, to try and eliminate this problem. Using 50 ml ‘Cuproxat’ in 10 litres of water, spray the trees as the buds begin to swell but not when the flowers are open. You could spray again in the autumn when the leaves begin to fall. Remember to wear eye protection when you do this and wash your hands well afterwards.

It is not all easy to grow fruits trees. Leaf curl is one of the most common diseases of peaches, nectarines and almonds. This is a spring problem when the young leaves develop distorted and puckered patches and whitish green or pink blisters, which redden and become thickened until the leaf may be destroyed.

Later on in the year foliage will be covered with a white powdery bloom and fruit may also carry warty spots. If the disease is not treated then these trees are likely to have distorted leaves, which fall prematurely. Loss of leaves means fruit set is poor and they do not fully develop. Twigs may also be attacked and die back as a consequence. The disease is always most troublesome when the weather is cold.

Do clear up old foliage under trees, whether they be ornamental or fruit-bearing, or you will find that any rain or watering will be wasted as it can’t soak though the earth. Polygala trees shed all year round – flowers and dead leaves – and can make a thick crust if not cleared up regularly.

There are a lot of bugs around in May as temperatures shoot upwards. You can deal with greenfly, blackfly and brown-fly, either by using a chemical spray or water with a drop or two of washing-up liquid. Watch out for these pests on pomegranates, almonds, apricots and peaches.

The biggest problem with fruit trees here in Cyprus is the Mediterranean fruit fly. Only lemons, pecans and loquats seem to escape. It takes a mere twenty days for an egg to become a mature fertile egg-laying adult, so smart action is required unless you want your fruits to be full of little white maggots.

Moving on to summer flowering plants you may like to try agapanthus, originally from South Africa that just love a sunny position in the garden or veranda. You can plant the bulbs or better still at this time of year, buy some of these gorgeous summer flowering plants already potted up when you know that they are more likely to flower.

Some gardeners tell me that their agapanthus don’t flower and perhaps it may be that they are too crowded together. They like to be planted quite deeply in a moist but well-drained soil and grown in full sun, so bear that in mind and they may not flower if their roots are too restricted. Mine have been in pots for years and years and yet flower every year. In places like Australia and New Zealand I have seen them grow profusely along the edges of roads with huge flower heads and without any special care at all!

If you have no luck with agapanthus, try Hemerocallis (day lilies).  These Asian origin plants also like to be planted in full sun to partial shade. They benefit from some regular watering but do not like to be waterlogged. Remember to remove dead flowers, which should encourage more blooms to appear. As they are perennials, the clumps which will eventually form, should be divided up every few years or so.

Plant of the month – Bougainvillea

feature garden plant of month bougainvillea over the front of a house

This much-loved climber adorns many a house or wall here with its brightly-coloured bracts. It is sometimes known as the paper flower as the bracts seem almost like paper but the ‘flowers’ are tiny and tucked away inside the bracts, sometimes white and sometimes cream.

Bougainvillea was originally found growing in Brazil, and is now a favourite in many gardens around the world, including Cyprus. Surprisingly, it grows well in dry gardens as well as in the hot and humid gardens that you may find along the coast and indeed it grows best in full sun.

In the wild, it can clamber up trees using its thorns on the stems to haul its way up, so that the flowers can reach the light above the tree canopy.

Pruning this interesting climber is like fighting a cat in a bag, says my husband, whose job it is to perform these tasks each year. Some bougainvilleas have double flowers which need to be pruned off rather than letting them shed naturally, whereas the single bracts will float off in any breeze.