Those of you who are assiduous in your attention to this blog will remember the great skiing disaster of earlier this year, when Cruella (my wife) and I were persuaded to trying skiing in Austria by our idiot son. The outcome could have been disastrous to people of our advanced years, but luckily we had the good sense to quit attempting to try and ski after just one day and instead became professionals at Apré Ski.
Anyway the whole point of this introduction is to offer you a host of things you could be doing in your garden rather than attempting skiing, or other extreme sports.
7th November: Things I have been doing lately.
💨 Rescuing wind damaged Cannas. Given that we live in lovely temperate Spain, there seems to be a lot of extreme weather about. Following the great drought, we had floods, then following the floods we had high winds. All we need now is a plague of locusts and I will be convinced that it is “the end of days”.
The winds have damaged a lot of tall plants including my lovely Cannas. Now the big problem here is that Cannas need time for all the goodness from their leaves to go back down into their Corm (ugly bulb). If this doesn’t happen then next years leaves and flowers will be much reduced. So you can’t cut the leaves off just to tidy the plant up. Instead you have to tie up the plant so that the leaves can fulfill the function that God intended for them.You can cut them down in January.
The first two photos below show my poor damaged Cannas. The third photo shows the Cannas tied up with one of Cruella’s old broomsticks. The shed is full of them, when they lose their twigs she puts them in there and I have to spend most of my time in there avoiding their erratic attempts at flight.
🗡 De-spiking Yucca. Tidying Yucca is similar to a military exercise. You first need to get fully kitted out. If you fail to do this, then prepare to bleed, because you most certainly will, or at the extremes get ready to lose an eye. The spikey leaves of Yucca are one of the most vicious weapons in the plant kingdom so you must be prepared. You will need, thick gardening gloves, good eye protection, sharp secateurs and a lot of luck. The easiest way to remove old Yucca leaves is to get below the plant and pull sharply down on each leaf one at a time. Given a good yank they should come away, those that don’t can be cut by your secateurs.
The first photo below show an untidy little Yucca that I have grown from a cutting. The second photo shows the same plant tidied up and looking rather handsome.
🛏 Tidying my Winter borders ready for Spring growth. I tend to leave my borders after the heady heights of Summer, so that I can let all the plants that self seed deliver some nice new little plants for me – and it never fails. Margeurites are great self seeders, yet I find it difficult to grow them from seed, so the solution is let them do the hard work. The photo below shows my untidy beds after Summer; to think Tracey Emin was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for her unmade bed, there’s no justice.
From this photo you can see that there are thousands of self seeded Margeurites of various sizes. Now the trick here is to weed and clear the bed at the same time as you are sowing the largest and most mature seedlings. When you dig the seedlings up you must ensure that you do not handle them by the stem, instead hold them by the leaves (it’s a bit like someone picking you up by the throat as opposed to holding your arm). Stems are easily damaged, you might not notice it, but the plant will not perform if it is damaged.
The first photo below shows the lovely root structure that the seedlings have grown. The second photo shows how to hold them as you gently ease them into their new home. The final photo shows my lovely “made” bed. (Click on each photo for a larger view).
🎖 Extreme weeding around bulbs. Welcome to the world of extreme weeding. I tend to liken it to the “Special Forces” area of gardening and actually consider myself more or less in the SAS, our motto is “who dares weeds”. Anyway, what I am trying to say that as bulbs start to show themselves by popping up at this time of year, you must be careful not to carelessly remove their growing tips by just hoeing over the top of them. Extreme weeding calls for the abandonment of the hoe and foresaking the trowel; yes, I mean hand-to-hand combat.
When bulb tips first appear they can look just like a blade of grass, and as they are usually surrounded by grass and weeds, this is an easy mistake to make. However, what you must do is get your hands in there, no gloves, and feel each stalk. Bulbs will have a more rounded and robust feel in as much as they will not bend very much. Grass on the other hand is thin and blade like and bends easily. You need to pull up all the grass blades growing around and between your bulbs so that they are not competing for nutrients. You will probably need to do this two or three times, until the stems of the bulbs are big enough to shade out the grass.
The photo below shows an area of bulbs that has benefited from “special forces” action. I wear my uniform when I am doing this and I have even awarded myself a medal; Cruella refused to attend the award ceremony, but both dogs and the cat were there.