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Getting down to earth – Part 1

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
25 July 2020   |   3:29 am
In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish whether it is garden owners who are dying {brokenhearted} or their plants. Plants don’t always age beautifully or die gracefully.

Gardenia Augusta O So Fine

In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish whether it is garden owners who are dying {brokenhearted} or their plants. Plants don’t always age beautifully or die gracefully. How do you tend your own plant?

There comes a time when every gardener gets bitten by the bug. Like one woken from slumber, after the prolonged heat and drought, suddenly life returns with the first whiff of cool air and rain. Then the sudden frenzy to get busy, the rush with axe, hoe, shovel, secateurs, knives; cutlass, you name it, all the backlog of chores neglected, plus the flowery plans and designs of the future must be executed all at once. So, you join the green brigade and many gardeners are debating now what course to adopt towards the hideous trial of victims left by the last dry season’s onslaught. I have to write little; because it would be lacking in proportion to set recent events on the same level of high tragedy as the misfortunes of Phedre or the Duchess of Malfi. Yet I note a threatening bulge in the number of garden owners applying for tragedy queen roles. Most plants do not even know how to do their dirty stuff sensibly. Imagine having to divert your gaze from the Hibiscus shrub with dead leaves hanging offensively for weeks without dropping.

Those dead leaves do not remove themselves but remain a reproach.

The dry season was quite a testing time, as it became clear whether we were going to witness a rapid and complete desertification. The countryside tends to look it worst during the dry season with masses of tired, dusty, scorched and caterpillar-riddled foliage. The more reason it seems that our gardens should be gay oases, now of all is a good time to take a critical look at the garden and decide which passengers are there.

I decided recently against the rather invasive parrot’s flower (Heliconia Psittacorum) growing by the border beside the wall along the drive way. First, they cannot keep neat straight lines with unruly raggedly leaves and worse, they have nearly choked and put out Augusta (Gardenia Augusta) out of sight, but she just managed _I don’t know how she did it- to peep out with a single bloom, that was all the more beautiful for its snow white purity and lovely scent. No question about it, those ragged invaders with their sickly yellow parrot’s beak mistakenly called flowers, have been removed. What a nice space. One just waited for the rains to return, with new plants of Gardenias and contrasting copper –rich Acalypha Wilkesiana called Ajuga Also that clump of Iris Sibirica. This is an excellent plant in a in a marshy sport near water, but in a border, its season is too brief and after flowering, its foliage becomes so obstructive that it flops and envelops all the neighboring plants, which one would prefer to be flopping over and enveloping it.

I might replant in the back garden around the base of the overhead water tank that is always over flowing, so it can stay well drenched or drowned. When you acquire your seedlings, plant them where you hope they will do well and remain for years to come. Yet, chances are that you have hit on their ideal role, even with a lifetime experience behind you and a vivid mind, which can picture flowering scene when there is scarcely one helpful hint at the moment of planting. Plants need to be moved around and you may move them half a dozen times, before they die. But that is nothing to be ashamed of. Trial and error may be a bit wasteful in time and energy, but is much likely to turn up the right answers than doing nothing at all. In any case, plants can rarely be left on their own devices for long, anyway. They start going back or else aggressively muscle out their neighbors.

How many big patches of any one plant can you boast in your borders? I don’t mean the invasive kinds, of which it is only too easy to have lots and so has everyone else. I mean things that are rather exciting in quantity, like some of the better kniphofias or Agapanthus or cardinal –flower type lobelias or a dazzling cranesbil like the magenta and black Geranium Psilstemon or a vast quilt {covered with bees and butterflies} of Balsams. Instead of just two or three perhaps the spires of not one but ten or twelve blue Perovskias, Digitalis Excelsior hybrids behind them. Somewhere, in not far distant a cohort of white

Cimicifuga spikes, ebullient buns of pink, double dwarf Ixoras in a fermenting tumulus nearby. One thought, one dream leads to another and that is the stuff that gardening plans are made of, maybe, at the start of a new season.

I know that one has to contend with the old cry of ‘we haven’t got the space”; but surely even around us today, more can be achieved than by pecking around with one or two.

Plants love to be divided and reset in freshly improved soil. And this sort of propagation is of the simplest, yet the itch to be making more seems to be absent from vast majority of garden owners. By all means, start with just one plant. Then when you see how beautiful it is, go on to the next step.

Change is usually for better, unless it is of the reducing kind which is dishonestly presented as a streamlining. There is little call for that in our garden, as long as we remain in reasonably good health, or can turn for assistance to younger, willing hands.

Now, that is not usually too difficult. Enthusiasm is infectious and gardening an inspiration, as soon as you scratch beneath the surface. So you quickly get on first with the dead –heading and pruning and generally to tidying up after your plants. Then comes weeding. The single plants can be hand weeded, just make sure you remove the roots. Weeds can be loosened by carefully working a hoe or cultivator through the beds. It is important to clear the beds. A hoe can make weeding larger area easier on the back {oh yes!}. For more troublesome weeds, use weed killers such as those containing glyphosate and repeat if necessary. Eradication of perennial weeds is essential if you are to avoid major problems after planting. Digging and mechanical removal will deal satisfactory with many. But some of the most persistent, often multiplied when fragment are distributed by digging and raking, can be treated effectively with modern herbicides. Glyphosate is particularly useful, it kills the weeds completely, does not affect the soil.

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