Summertime and the living is easy
July should be a month to relax and enjoy the fruits of ones — or the landscapers — labours with a bounty of colour to enhance the garden and create a feeling of a job well done. Many aspects contribute to this palette of colour including the maintenance of the garden itself and the various plants found within its boundary. The use of plants can make or break a setting if they are not in harmony with their surroundings, so be creative with the selection process by ‘visualising’ how each plant blends with its neighbour and surrounds in general.
In small gardens size needs to considered as a major component of the finished product therefore selection should perhaps start with considering one or two small trees such as Parkinsonia aculeata — Jerusalem Thorn, a ‘light’ tree in appearance with thorns on the branches, small leaves and yellow flowers; Lagunaria pattersonii — Cow — itch Tree, a semi evergreen tree with hibiscus type flowers of a pinkish colour and Sabinea carinalis — Carib Wood, a light airy appearance slow growing with red flowers. I have planted all three types in one garden in a north and west exposure and they do well especially when fertilised on a regular basis. It is often that large properties require new landscapes as they are usually well matured and in need of ‘restoration’, however if large trees are needed for whatever reason, several factors need to be determined to assist in selection. Large tree have large root systems which spread as the tree matures therefore proximity to buildings should be taken into consideration, location is always important as some trees will not tolerate strong winds and salt spray and of course symmetry, I would certainly not recommend the planting of Norfolk Island Pines — Araucaria excels as they have a very upright habit and tend to lose branches during high winds, they also tend to ‘dwarf’ buildings especially single storey, many of the Ficus species are also too large for our properties. Cassia fistula — Golden Shower requires protection from wind and salt spray and Koelreuteria paniculata — Golden Rain tree are perhaps suitable candidates worth considering.
Shrubs are usually the backbone of a garden as they are found in numerous sizes, shapes and flower /leaf colour with the added dimension of seed or fruit production to extend the interest level. When designing consider location first and foremost as even though we do not usually have severe winters, wind and salt can destroy more tender species. Make a list of plants which do well in your area with the idea of creating interest in the garden for as long as possible, December through March being the exception. Many plants will bloom on a continuous basis throughout the growing period whilst others are more ‘seasonal’ and not necessarily for a long period, with this in mind select plants that will overlap in flowering and ‘interest’ levels with their proposed neighbours; to view a garden in full bloom followed by weeks of inactivity is not a well thought out garden. The range of flowering times for each plant type can be extensive and therefore collectively selection should cover a timeline from March to November or close to these times excluding storms! Some recommendations to help you decide……..
Thryallis glauca — Cloth of Gold, has bloomed well from mid- May with buttercup yellow flowers in clusters; keep at a height of six feet for good effect and flowering habit. Solanum rantonettii Blue Robe is slightly smaller in habit than Thryallis has blue flowers again flowering from late spring into the summer months. Thunbergia erecta — Kings Mantle has an upright habit with blue/purple flowers and yellow throat, best planted as a stand-alone specimen. A heavy bloomer, Grewia occidentalis — Star Lavender has orchid like purple flowers; has a good tight habit of growth but should be protected from strong winds. Combination plantings can work well in certain areas, I like to use the Jatropha hastata — Peregrine with Plumbago auriculata more so the blue than white but both can be effective when inter-planted between the crimson flowered Jatropha. Codiaeum variegatum — Croton can be used to great effect if using the stronger coloured foliage types as they set off the neighbouring plants with their intense leaf colour especially if neighbouring plants are between flowerings.
Ground covers are great for keeping weed growth under control as well as complementing their taller associates the shrubs. Ground covers have various habits being either very prostrate e.g. Rosmarinus officinalis prostratus — Creeping Rosemary or low and bushy such as Senecio vitalis — Chalk fingers. The ground hugging types include Rosmarinus, Lantana montevidiensis (purple or white types), Senecio macroglossus — Cape Ivy has yellow flowers and is also found in a variegated form; has a tendency to ramble through neighbouring plantings which adds to the interest level as long as it is to some degree controlled. Scaevola aemula has purple/blue flowers very intense colour which mixes well with reds and yellow flowering types, it is a low growing type which spreads into a carpet effect when planted close together. Asystasia gangetica has a low growing rambling habit with various colours, looks good when used as under-planting to a rose- bed, its spreading habit also helps control weed growth.
Non-conventional type plants add great interest to beds simply by their outline and shape in general; several nurseries have a good selection of Aloes and Agaves which themselves are found in different ‘shapes’ and colours, some stay low and have a clumping habit which as they mature makes a bold statement whilst others are larger growers with less of a clumping habit but size and colour being the dominant factor. A real architectural gem — in my opinion — is Sansevieria cylindrical — African Spear, it is a simple plant with round stems emanating from the base of the plant but continues to produce same to create fan shapes and only attain heights to twenty four inches.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so sit back and behold … you deserve it.
Malcolm D. Griffiths
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