Although nothing to do with gardening, it always amazes me just how many Saints Days each month produces. Today August 15th is another one dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is always known locally simply as ‘the Virgin of August’ and along with the saints days go the fazes of the moon, either waxing or waning when the old traditional farmer/gardener would organise his outdoor chores.
Naturally with the heat of the summer many fruits and vegetables are ready for harvesting but at the same time there are just as many vegetables that can be planted ready for winter growing or ‘year round growing’ as we gardeners from northern climates look at it.
It is difficult to single out any one vegetable when we think of all that can be seen on the market stalls and we can produce just the same. It’s all a matter of what you personally like to see on your dinner table, which ever you choose, plant it, keep it well watered and you will be able to enjoy the results in a few month time.
If you have dared to embark in the Melon and Watermelon family they are just coming up to harvesting time now.
I mentioned the Grape Vine last week, the early cropping variety ready for picking. Wine making is quite a different culture that I prefer to leave to the vineyards. There is that other somewhat later variety of white grape that is always left on the vine to be harvested for the New Years Eve ‘twelve grapes’ to eat one every stroke of the clock at midnight.
Here you can copy local farmers by helping keep these long lasting grapes from the birds. A conical paper cap is fitted over each bunch of grapes with the hope that the birds won’t find their way inside. It is worth a try, in many cases the grape fares better and lasts longer on the vine than in the fruit bowl on the dining room table, it’s well worth a try and all part of the Mediterranean gardening.
One mid summer flower that never ceases to amaze me is the Epiphyllum, a night flowering cacti with its outstanding perfume once the flower is fully open. My original cacti must be all of 30 years old off which I have taken endless cuttings, all of which survive with ease. It is the most untidy plant you can imagine with all sorts of dead ends and dried-up flat, fleshy leaves.
The flower bud grows off the older more mature leaves, never the bright green fleshy leaves. First a tiny bud looking like a tear drop will appear that hangs head downwards for several weeks until the tip turns into its large flower bud and begins to turn up in a ‘U’ shape, probably just one night before it will open.
At this point thin petals will begin to curl outwards and the white petals begin to open. That is the night you just cannot go to bed until you have seen the wonder of this giant flower, just about as big as your own outstretched hand and if you like the heady fragrance of this type of flower you won’t be disappointed. Be prepared to stand and look at it from ten o’clock onwards because by morning it is all over.
Some larger more mature cacti can have several blooms on them at any one time and will produce this wonderful flower several weeks apart, two or three times during the summer nights. Mine was in flower for the second time this year just this last week. The trouble is one cannot share this wonder of nature with hardly any one unless you are having a midnight feast but even then it’s difficult to calculate exactly which night it will eventually open fully.
Never mind, there are always the daytime opening flowers like ‘Morning Glory’ to enhance the breakfast table and they stay in bloom most of the day even though only for one day, at least that climbing plant is in flower for months on end. A late variety of Bougainvillea is also one of those shrubs full of colour at this time of year. Keep the very long spurs cut back tightly and you will find you have a solid hedge of the coloured bracts with just its tiny yellow star shaped flower in the centre.
The more you trim this Bougainvillea the longer you will have the coloured bracts. Grow it up a supporting wall or over a pergola for the best effect. Here again mine is quite an old plant being well over 40 years old and grown from a simple cutting in the first place.