Now that we are into the month of December there seems to be nothing on our minds but the run up to Christmas. Don’t you believe that, there is plenty more to do in the garden which we have all discovered is a never ending and repetitive chore, pastime or hobby which ever way you wish to look at it.
I have bossy daughters, one asked me what I intended to do with ‘all those flower pots’. Well yes there are rather a lot on the front doorstep but then everyone seems to think I can look after their potted plants whilst they are away and not infrequently never come back for them.
It's almost like house sitting or looking after cats and dogs, at least these owners usually return at some time or other. Then there are all those pots where just a snippet has been popped into a pot to see if it will take root then gets forgotten to be planted out when it has proved to be alive.
Yet another daughter commented that it was rather like the jungle when trying to find the front door as she dodged the Bougainvillea from above and a rambling rose from along the path as well as a self seeded Palm tree that is about to stop the front gate opening at all. All of this sounds like a good session with the secateurs is needed. I have touched on pruning from time to time and I guess now really is the time .
We are somewhat led astray here in this climate because it seems like growing season all year round, roses for example are still producing lovely blooms, perhaps not quite so many but who wants to cut the bush right back when it is still in flower? Well you must, at some time during this month get started on the Roses.
The grape vine is another real must, in this case a great deal of the leaf will have fallen, a sure sign the sap is low. Grapes only form on the new wood so cut right back to one or two buds on the main branch you want to keep.
You can either train this one branch up over a trelis or pergola or keep it low along a wall tying it to some support as you may see in the vinyards. Bougainvillea is another that can be cut right back to the main trunk, all those leaves and bracts are going to fall anyway just to untidy the garden so cut them back if they still have leaves or not.
All this is just the tip of the knife so to speak, every corner of the garden will have some tree or shrub that will need cutting back.
The one that does not need to be pruned just yet is the Citrus family, oranges and lemons and more, they are just beginning to ripen for this coming season's crop and should not to be pruned until after their harvesting. Not only that the citrus tree likes warmer weather to help heal the cut where the branches have been cut back. More about that when the time comes.
Don’t let Passion flower become a pest. Some climbing plants should come with a warning and the Passion flower is surely one of them. Although it has a beautiful flower and even a fruit you can eat, it is a climber that quickly covers bare walls and fences, it's precisely this vigorous habit that causes problems. No matter how much you convince yourself that you can keep it within bounds, Passion Flower will escape. Not only its growth every season but its intrusive roots seem to go all over the garden to places where you never even planted it. It really is a plant that needs to be pulled up by the root if you don’t want it all over the garden. On the other hand, kept just where you want it, it is easy to grow and has the most wonderful flowers that attract the bees, these walk around under the central stamen covering their backs with the pollen, just our little bit to help the bee population and ecology.
Back to the front terrace and the potted plants with their drainage plates. It is really important to empty the plate from time to time. In summer all we want to do is fill it to encourage the plant to take up water. In the winter rain will probably fill the plate, the plant does not need such frequent watering so the plate stays full. This full plate can sometimes damage the plant by the soil staying so wet that the roots rot, no plants need to stand in water all the time so be sure to tip excess water out . By doing this you will also help avoid mosquitos, they are not only a summer scourge, they are all year round and like nothing better than a little pool of stagnant water to hatch out in. Sunny afternoons will often encourage one into the garden to do some real clearing up of unwanted weeds and grasses out of which will fly all those mosquitos you have inadvertantly been producing where ever there is a drop of water.
Gardening isn’t all negative hard work, try planting up something a little different, an evergreen garden for example. There are so many plants that can be grown for their leaves even if they do have a flower at some time.
Start at the back with something that will grow tall like a Rubber plant or Bay tree, keep it cut into a standard shape, also plant one of the Fir or Cypress family, they usually grow tall and slim giving another level behind whatever goes in front. You then have the choice of so many shrubs with large shiny leaves or Sage green leaves, spikes of the Rosemary or Lavender the choice is endless. Finish off in the front with something light and fluffy looking as well as a couple of Succulents to cover all the textures and colours of green. Let’s face it, green is the basis of every garden so let it stand out for once.