We occasionally refer to old sayings as were used by farmers and gardeners of times past which frequently pointed to something quite obvious. Today I am going to point to myself with an old English saying ‘do as I say , not as I do’ or something along those lines because I frequently suggest that it could be time to do certain things in the garden like cutting back hedges and shrubs for example. This is one chore I find the most difficult to carry out, I just hate cutting growing plants back to their trunk for example but we are frequently advised to do so. Because of our long growing season here, or should I say, year round growing season? Many plants will grow far beyond themselves turning some corners of the garden into a complete jungle. A well established garden will probably need really hard cutting back or prune , call it what you like, every year. I admit I am ruthless with the Bougainvillea cutting it back to the trunk every winter with the result that the pergola is simply spectacular right now and will be until the last bract has fallen, sure proof that a good prune every year is necessary. I am saying all this because some shrubs don’t mind being cut back at any time of the year. This comes to mind after a particularly strong wind has really torn apart my datura. This is a shrub that makes miles long new growth every year so to keep it in hand is where we can refer to another old saying, ‘Spare the knife and spoil the bush’. In many cases and datura is one of them, the more compact the growth the more flower it produces. It rarely flowers at this time of year so prepare it for its flowering season by really cutting it back now. Many of these shrubs can be considered as ‘evergreens’, they do drop their leaves but those that are coming along all the time mean that the shrub is evergreen. I admit that it produces masses of falling leaves, that is not just an autumn chore, sweeping up the leaves but all year round. The actual sweeping up of leaves from the deciduous trees will be starting any time now as we go into the autumn season but there is no great change of colour to those wonderful reds and orange colours of more northern trees. Here some leaves are still on the trees until next spring. Fruit trees are of course another matter, the last of some this seasons crops will be just about ready to harvest. It is difficult to say just which ones because there are so many varieties that fall into the different categories of either early or late cropping fruits, only you will know when your own fruit trees are ready for picking. These will be the deciduous trees that are not ready yet to prune, that will be when all the leaves have dropped and the sap is low when its time. Citrus fruit trees are another matter. The latest of all ready for cropping will be the Pomegranate, this is one of the Citrus trees frequently used as the root stock for Orange and Lemon trees along with the Bitter Orange tree but that of grafting trees is very much a specialist job and takes up to eight years for a newly grafted tree to mature into a fruit bearing tree so you must know what you are doing and have patience. It is really best to purchase an already mature tree if you are wanting to plant up any of the orange or lemon family. Most of these young trees can be found in the Co-op or garden markets well established in large pots that just need transplanting which can be done at almost any time assuming the ground has been well prepared for the transplanting. A large enough hole to take the root ball or a little larger in fact but never deeper, put plenty good soil in the bottom of the hole even some compost and water well in. Simply pass the tree from its pot to its new home. It could well do with three or four sturdy stakes and cross bar supports around the transplanted tree for it to be tied to, to avoid wind rock that could well hinder the new root growth. Remember that the winter, (and summer) winds can do a great deal of damage. Going back to my earlier comments of cutting back bushes and trees, this is one of the reasons, not only for its looks and encouraging new growth but to help avoid the tree/bush being top heavy when we are battered by the winds that not infrequently batter the island.
Another late cropping tree is the Quince tree, not exactly a fruit for eating raw off the tree but great for making Quince jelly to go with the Christmas turkey! They are coming along nicely on the trees but there are far fewer of those. Pears are just about finished cropping but there are still some Apples to come. So you see there is something growing all year round in a Mediterranean garden and something to do to keep it all tidy.
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