It is time to grow your thumbnails long and Cruella killed a squirrel

Both of the above statements are perfectly true and pertinent to the appropriate conduct of this gardening blog. However, Cruella (my wife) is denying the squirrel murder, but we all know she has form when it comes to unexpected deaths. Anyway all will be explained in a moment, let’s turn our minds to less morbid stuff. On with the gardening.

14th April Things I have been doing lately:

💀 Deadheading. By now the garden is gradually getting going and you should have seen lots of early flowers so far. But the key to keeping them coming is to deadhead on a daily basis. If you don’t deadhead, then once the plant has roundabout 50% seeds heads then it will stop flowering and transfer all its energy into producing the seed. To stop this you have to take away it’s seed-heads by deadheading so that is forced to produce more flowers.

At this time of year it is a good idea to grow your thumbnails long as this will provide you with a pair of secateurs at the end of each hand. By pressing your thumb against your forefinger you can neatly deadhead most plants. I do not recommend this method for Roses otherwise you will need a blood transfusion quite quickly.

The first photo below shows my handy secateurs (pun intended) together with Cruella’s for comparison. By the way don’t think that’s nail polish on her thumb it’s not!

The next photos show my various deadheading activities as I wander round the garden. Don’t forget to compost all your deadheads. And remember it is not just flowers that need deadheading; plants such as Mother in Laws Tongue need to have spent stems pulled out. You can detect which stems are ready by gently pulling on them, those that are dead will just pull out. Click on each photo for a larger view

🪡 Tying up plants. Long stemmed plants such as Iris will need to be supported by tying up. With all the rain we have had on the Costa Blanca lately they have been very battered about. Given these flowers are relatively short lived make sure you tie them up to support them and enjoy them a little longer.

Where possible I will grow long stemmed plants through other stronger plants so that they get good natural support. But where this is not possible then it’s out with the canes and string to give some support. The first photo below shows a stand of Iris growing through some Elephant Bush.

There are two clumps of Iris in this bed and both are forced to grow tall to compete with the surrounding plants

The first two photos below show other clumps of Iris before they were battered by the rain. The second two photos show my efforts at holding them up. Click on each photo for a larger view

🌱 Hardening off seedlings. If you are growing seeds – and I certainly hope you are – then don’t forget to harden them off before you plant them out. Even here in sunny Spain you must accustomise your plants to the garden by gradually hardening them off. Hardening them off basically means bringing your seedlings out of their sheltered accommodation each day for about five days before you eventually plant them out. The photo below shows the great hardening off process.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

🪚 Dealing with Yuccas. I have lots of Yucca in various spots in my garden and they range from the small potted variety to large garden giants. Left to their own Yucca will just keep growing to quite a great height and the drawback to this is that at eye level you are just left with a trunk and you miss out on the sword like leaves and the flowering stems. So don’t just leave your Yucca, manage them to your advantage.

I have a stand of Yucca that I have grown between the drive and my potting area. Two of these have been leaning over the path, one left and one right. Although I trim the sharp end of the leaves, I sometimes forget and consequently my scalp gets spiked every time I pass this area. Enough was enough so I cut the main stems of these two back by just over half. They will of course regrow. The photos below show the miscreants before and after surgery. Click on each photo for a larger view

In addition to these two I had another large clump of Yucca that needed to be cut back . The central stem in this clump had grown very tall and the flower spike was too far in the air to be appreciated. In addition this was now shading the light from my bathroom. When I mentioned this to Cruella (my wife) she said incredulously “who needs light? I just talk to my mirror and ask it who is the fairest” I explained to her that not everyone has a talking mirror that lies; she hasn’t spoken to me for a week.

After Cruella eventually calmed down I explained that I needed her help to cut this Yucca back. The problem I faced was that I needed to push on the trunk of the Yucca to make sure it fell in the right direction, whilst at the same time wielding my chainsaw. Cruella eventually relented and armed with a swimming pool brush her role was to push on the trunk whilst I cut.

The first photo below shows the problem with the main stem of the Yucca casting shade on the window. The second photo shows Cruella (with her newly dyed hair) pushing with all her might on the trunk. Click on each photo for a larger view

The next photo shows the newly cleared area letting more light into my bathroom. The final photo shows the trunk lying on the driveway ready for disposal. Now this is the bit when it gets spooky. As I moved the trunk I noticed something furry wedged in the very top spike of leaves. On closer inspection it was a dead red squirrel that had either fallen into the Yucca from the nearby palm, or, it had been placed there. When I questioned Cruella about storing dead animals she at first confessed to nothing. Blurting out “I don’t know anything about a dead squirrel” when I pointed out that I hadn’t said which type of animal she stormed off shouting “you never support me in my hobbies”. Click on each photo for a larger view

🤺 Reshaping small Yucca. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I have a range of Yucca and other plants on a terraced area at the rear of my house. Because of high winds in winter, these yucca were regularly blown over, breaking leaves and quite often pots. To overcome this I undertook a drastic cutback to the stem for all of them last January. Once the top growth was cut off the leaves on all the stems were removed. This left bare trunks which I knew would sprout new side growth. The photos below show the initial stage of the cutback. Click on each photo for a larger view

When the new growth starts to come through you need to select how many leaves you want to retain and their position on the trunk. Taking a sharp gardening knife just simply slice out the growth areas you do not want. Try and achieve a pleasing distribution and make sure the new growth is not clumped together. You will need to do this every week for a month or so till the plant recognises the dominant growth you want and then it will stop producing new shoots.

The photos below show my various slicing activities. I do not intend to let these Yucca grow too tall as I don’t want to start over again. Click on each photo for a larger view

🇺🇸 Cutting back Agave Americana. If you have Agave Americana, then you will know that it is the brute and assassin of the Agave world. This is a plant not to be messed with its long arching leaves are edged with deadly spikes and it has a dagger like point at the end of each leaf. You should never plant Agave Americana near paths or walkways as they will inevitably spike people or at their worst take out the odd eye or two.

Having said this, planted in the correct place this can be a stunning plant that is a real talking point (no pun intended). I have three very large plants all of which are planted off the pathway at the top of my wild wood. Overall the plants are very easy to take care of, just give them the right dry conditions and then stay well clear. I noticed this year that Lentisco bushes were growing up around the Agave spoiling their look, and that the plants themselves needed a trim to reshape.

The first photo below shows my Agave being overcrowded by the Lentisco and looking a little untidy.

There are three of them in there, but you would not know it

The next photos show the Agave freed from the encircling Lentisco and nicely tidied up. I meanwhile am lacerated from head to toe and have lost at least three pints of blood. Click on each photo for a larger view

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.

2 thoughts on “It is time to grow your thumbnails long and Cruella killed a squirrel”

  1. Do you plug the Yucca tops back into the landscape, or just discard them? I have grown thousands of them just by laying the canes on the ground in autumn, and slightly burying them. The pups root straightaway. I have only a few remaining. Tall canes make great deer fences because they can be plugged into the ground at six feet tall, with about two feet stuck into the ground to hold them up. Even though deer can get between them (if planted just close enough for their leaves to overlap with their neighbors), they won’t, as if they believe that the foliage will impale them like that of related Joshua tree. Of course, the long canes do not retain all of their foliage down low, so I prefer to plug them a but shorter.


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