It’s time to sing with the orphans – and Cruella is coming back

At this time of the year when the dog days of summer are long and hot, the potting bench turns into an orphanage. The only plants left on the bench are those orphan plants that have been left behind; not chosen, not wanted and even rejected. These consist of poor little badly grown cuttings, or those with misshapen leaves or just those who just aren’t ready to leave the shelter of the potting bench. It can be quite depressing to feel unloved and unwanted, and that is why for the past few years I have instituted a system of nightly sing songs.

Every night, at the end of the gardening day, and before the sun goes down, I wander down to the potting bench and sit myself on top of one of the compost bins to talk to the orphans. We start with me providing an update of how their past friends are doing since they were planted out in the garden. I always keep it upbeat telling the orphans that everyone is thriving and describing their friends new flowers. I never tell them about the losses or those who have just shrivelled in the Sun; there is no point in being depressing.

Anyway, after the daily update it’s straight on to the singing. I am sure it would be no surprise to you that plants prefer songs from the shows and musicals. They despise comic songs and for obvious reasons will never countenance anything from “Frozen”. As you would expect different plants have their favourites: Spider Plants love singing “the ugly duckling” including all the accompanying actions. Trumpet Vine love anything from “Oklahoma” and take great delight in bellowing out that line “…the corn is as high as an Elephant’s eye”. The Gaura that sits at the back of the potting bench is a bit of a Diva and insists on singing power ballads and makes us all cry when she sings “I will survive” We always finish the singing with “the sun will come up tomorrow” from the musical “Annie”, as everyone belts it out I drum my feet against the door of the compost bin to keep up the tempo; we call it the orphan’s anthem.

Our last thing before I go in is our prayer which we all say together:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my roots to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord to compost make”

What do you mean you have never hard plants sing or pray, you need to listen more carefully. The photo below shows everyone ready for bed.

The Sun always comes up tomorrow

10th August. Things I have been doing lately:

✂️ Cutting back standards. By now your standards should have been in full flower for a while and will have begun to get straggly and untidy. It is time to give them a mid-Summer prune with the hope that you will get a second flush of flowering into September/October. The first photos below show a verbena and two Solanums needing a prune. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The next photos show them all heavily pruned. I know this looks a bit drastic but they are all mature plants and they will all be back in full leaf soon. Click on each photo for a larger view.

🪓 Cutting back a large false pepper tree. Many gardens in Spain have Peruvian/Californian false pepper trees. These are large trees with a resemblance to a weeping willow, and which have long Racine’s which have tiny red berries that look like pepper corns. These are lovely trees but can be messy when the wind blows, especially around swimming pools. What a lot of people don’t realise is that you can be quite brutal in your pruning with these trees especially if you have let them get out of hand. The photos below show my lovely tree being pruned by professionals and the final outcome. Click on each photo for a larger view.

These photos were taken about three months ago, but I haven’t included them in my blog so far because I knew that people seeing the drastic cutback would think I had killed the tree. But the false pepper is very robust and I knew it would come back. The photo below was taken last week and you can see the tree bursting back into life. In its new form I will let it take shape into its weeping format but then I will keep it pruned to shape. So the moral is if you have a false pepper tree then you can keep it nicely shaped as part of your overall garden design.

Notice the poor old Agave Salmianas that were battered with falling branches.

🧟‍♀️ Cruella is coming back. The party is over, the end is near, the nightmare begins. Regular readers of this blog will know that Cruella (my wife) has been at our English house for almost six months casting spells to ensure that our idiot son doesn’t get coronavirus. Well, now she is coming back tonight and the problem is that I tidied her bedroom whilst she was away. I only have a few hours to get it back to how she likes it – she lands on the lawn at midnight.

I spent all last night in the garden trying to replace the things I had changed in her room. So far I’ve only got 23 cockroaches, 11 black beetles, 2 dead mice, 14 worms and a fallen log. She will definitely notice that her snakes are missing and I have found it impossible to catch any bats. My plan is to tell her we were burgled. The photo below shows her room now. As a surprise I’ve put the cockroaches in her bed – she will be thrilled at my thoughtfulness.

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

7 thoughts on “It’s time to sing with the orphans – and Cruella is coming back”

  1. Can you also prune roses now. I’m still struggling with mine and it has more holes than leaves!! So I thought I would prune it hard back again but Geoff said no!
    Have you made sure Cruella has a mask ( probably black) and have you explained social distancing to her ( although as she only goes out in the dead of night the only people she might meet are the Guardia Civil!!)😂😂😂


    1. Normally you would not cut Roses back now. However, needs must and if they look terrible cut them back to one bud on each stem. Then water really well and bank compost around the stems to make sure the sun doesn’t fry them. Within a week or two you should see new growth. When you see this new growth feed the plant with Rose food and keep it well watered. They should be ok they are very robust plants with good roots.


  2. Oklahoma!? Seriously?!
    Anyway, California pepper is naturalized here, but is supposedly from Chile as well as Peru. We know it as California pepper to distinguish it from another species that is known as Peruvian pepper, which use to be popular, but is now rare. Brazilian pepper used to be popular too, and is still somewhat common down south.


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